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Intercessory prayer

Built on a Rock
Rev. Dr. Steven Voris, First Presbyterian Church, Luverne

Of the many different types of verbal and nonverbal prayer, intercessory prayer is the type that is pure love.

There isn’t anything wrong with praying for oneself or praying for a close family member or friend. Jesus prayed for himself in John 17:5.

However, when we pray for someone we don’t know, or for a troubling situation far away that doesn’t impact our daily lives, then that intercessory prayer is done from pure love and concern for others without any self-interest influencing our petitions to God.

Christians should do everything they do from love, and prayer for others is always loving.

A question often raised about intercessory prayer is that if God is all-knowing, omnipotent, then why does God need Christians to pray for others since God already knows about the situation.

I do believe God is moved to change God’s mind in response to our intercessory prayers. I think of Moses in Exodus 32. God was angry enough to destroy the Israelites after the golden calf incident, but Moses pleaded with God to be merciful. And Exodus 32:14 reads, “And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.”

God is moved to change God’s mind when people express pure love through intercessory prayer. But, for the most part, I think intercessory prayer primarily changes us.

When Christians are moved to pray for a stranger with cancer, or to pray for orphans in Ukraine, or shed tears for the hungry people in Gaza, they are often moved to get involved and help out, becoming God’s hands to alleviate suffering. While orphans in Ukraine are far away, there are charities collecting money for their welfare. A Christian who loves the stranger with cancer might bring the cancer patient’s family a meal or volunteer to shovel snow while the cancer patient is in bed recovering from chemotherapy. Through our prayers, our words are converted into love and action.

I believe God is able to perform miracles based on intercessory prayer, but I also believe God works through human means to accomplish miracles of love, compassion and generosity.

Prayer is a powerful tool. Prayer can change God’s mind. Prayer can also change ours!

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