The term "intercessor" has found a strong place in the vocabulary of the church today. We have books for intercessors, conferences for intercessors, and so on. Lately, in fact, I have often heard people introduced as intercessors: "This is John Smith. He is an intercessor."
As I have traveled to local churches, pastors have said to me, "I'd like you to meet with my team of intercessors." The term has become almost as widely used and understood as "pastor" or "worship leader." In fact, our own ministry organization has a full-time director of prayer and intercession.
Certainly, we are in desperate need in the American church today for a return to a lifestyle of prayer and intercession. And the recent focus on prayer, worship, intercession, 24-hour houses of prayer and the like is clearly the voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to place priority on the importance of prayer. So how can we make sure we are looking at the ministry of intercession in light of Scripture, and calling for and modeling a scriptural understanding of this vital activity?
First of all, Ephesians 4 is clear about the ministry gifts God has placed in the church. There are five: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists. Intercessor is not listed here. Paul also lists about nine spiritual and practical gifts that the church is to move in (see 1 Cor. 12: 4-11). Yet, strangely, he does not list prayer or intercession as one of them.
It would seem difficult, then, to build a biblical case for the distinct office or gift called "intercessor" or "intercession." But are we saying that Scripture is making the activity of prayer unimportant by its relative lack of mention of intercession as a distinct calling or ministry gift?
Absolutely not. I would argue that Scripture is abundantly clear in its mandate for all believers to live a lifestyle of intercession on a constant basis. I believe Scripture presupposes and clearly defines that the primary activity of God's house is prayer and intercession from every believer and every family.
Consider the following verses: "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2, NKJV); "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands" (1 Tim. 2:8); and "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14).
Scripturally, it seems clear that the constant activity and ministry of prayer is not something reserved for a chosen few, but something that must be diligently cultivated and passed on to the whole house of God.
This is not to say there are not those who have developed mature prayer lives and exhibit a special love for and power in the activity of prayer. But that grace is there so it can be passed on and become infectious to the whole body, not quarantined off in some back room or on a different day of the week. Let those who love the ministry and activity of prayer model and train the whole congregation in what is our primary corporate calling!
I would like to challenge all of us to change our mind-sets in this regard. If we are not careful, we can think we are prioritizing prayer by appointing "intercessors" or special "intercessory meetings," while, in reality, we may actually be keeping the whole house of God from moving forward into corporate prayer. We are called to be a "royal priesthood."
So, who are your intercessors? Every individual in your congregation! Some may realize it; some may not. Some may be mature in prayer; some may need training. But all of us are called to be intercessors.
All of us are called to the constant activity of partnering with the universal prayer meeting that is going on right now, which Jesus, our chief intercessor, is leading. Let's not minimize the effectiveness and scope of the prayer God wants in His house by making it an activity or calling only for "experts."