“Jim, do you pray?”


“Jim, what does “intercessory prayer” look like for you? Where does it fit in or does it?”


“I no longer subscribe to many of the premises that are associated with the idea of intercessory prayer, at least as I learned it. In a nutshell, I learned intercessory prayer as a request for divine intervention on behalf of another person. It’s asking God to intervene in a person’s circumstances, and to provide whatever is necessary to resolve their difficulty or dilemma. Intercessory prayer is often a request for God to intervene in another person’s life in the form of providing healing, guidance, strength, courage, wisdom, change of circumstances, protection, financial “blessing,” etc.

Intercessory prayer seems to operate on a model that involves three separate parties: the intercessor; God; and the person being prayed for. The idea is that the intercessor appeals to God, and God in turn intervenes accordingly, and the life of the person being prayed for is affected by God’s action.

In my view, dividing it out this way is reinforcing the falsehood of separation. A visual representation of this intercessory prayer idea might be something like this: the intercessor is sitting at home, God is up in the sky like a divine satellite dish, and the person in need is wherever they happen to be. The intercessor’s prayer goes up and pings the divine satellite. In response, the divine satellite turns toward the person in need and their particular situation, and miraculously supplies what was requested.

This model of intercessory prayer imagines a kind of separation that isn’t real. The intercessor, God, and the person being prayed for are not separate in the way this model implies. Further, the model assumes that the person who is being prayed for is separated from what they need or desire, namely peace, freedom, well-being, love, courage, guidance, strength, wisdom, etc. The model also implies that the answer or resolution to their circumstances or difficulty lies outside of their own ability to act or the possibilities present in the situation itself.

In some instances “intercessory prayer” can be magical thinking or encourage a lack of personal responsibility, if the situation involves a person who is not taking responsibility for their lives or not responding to situations as they require, and instead hoping or expecting God to miraculously swoop in and bail them out.

My way of approaching “intercessory prayer” involves the following. I accept the interrelatedness and interconnectedness of all things including God, of which I am a part. My desire for the liberation of all beings and humankind has been growing and intensifying over the years. As I walk and live along the everyday paths of life, I am mindful of wanting to think, do or be what aids the liberation of all beings. I accept that my own way of seeing and being in the world affects the whole, and impacts all humankind. So in this case, “intercessory prayer” for me is accepting that I am not separate from God or separate from peace, love, freedom, well-being, courage, wisdom, etc. I also accept that one of the most spiritual acts that I contribute to the whole is to take responsibility for my own life, address the root cause of my suffering, and learning to live skillfully by responding to the situations of my life as they require.

Intercessory prayer for me is also a willingness to involve myself in tangible ways to encourage, support, assist, and help those around me that I see in need, whether the person is my neighbor or someone on the other side of the world. Rather than tell someone “I’ll pray for you,” I consider what it might mean for me to be part of the answer through my own love, compassion, support, assistance, and generosity. For me, sometimes “intercessory prayer” is holding a deep and persistent desire for the liberation of another person, and the end of their suffering.

I think there are many different ways that people connect with God or the divine on behalf of the well-being of others. All that I’ve shared is simply how it has been evolving for me. I don’t think this is the prescribed way; this is just how things are working themselves out for me at this point with respect to intercessory prayer.”

Latest Comments

  1. donovanshaw says:

    This awesome Jim, makes perfect sense. You are living this out in your own life.

  2. Ben says:

    I like the idea of interconnectedness. Thinking that our thoughts or prayers will change the course of the universe seems to me naïve at best and at worst a setup for pain and suffering. Great post!

  3. said-simply says:

    I think the visual you paint over-simplifies a mysterious and complex thing. I agree with you that intercessory prayer is much more than rattling off a list of needs to God on behalf of people we’re concerned about and then expecting God to ping down our desired miraculous result.

    In a much deeper and more meaningful way, It is a turning of the heart toward a gratuitously loving and generous God whose desire and intention for each person is good. It is also an act of surrender. As such, it is a way of reaching out to God and of announcing, “This is bigger than me God; my friend/loved one/co-worker/neighbor needs you and I am asking you to touch them.” It is not demanding that God act in a certain way, nor is it assuming that one’s prayers have the ability to program God’s response.

    But one thing it is, according to scripture, is an act of obedience. The Bible clearly instructs Christ’s followers to pray. Jesus in fact teaches his followers to pray. I fear the image you paint Jim is a more a caricature of intercessory prayer than a picture of authentic intercessory prayer.

    I like the way you connect prayer to action. I think while we wait for God to act our response should be doing what we can to make a difference. I’m not intending to judge your point of view just to dialogue with it and confront aspects of it that I’m not convinced I agree with.

  4. Beth Morey says:

    I really appreciate this. I’ve grown tired and leery of the God-as-cosmic-vending-machine pe of prayer (intercessory or otherwise). Thanks!

  5. Yulanda Gombard says:

    Thank you for this, especially, Jim because I now finally have clarity on the prayer issue. For me this new way of seeing things is also evolving as I journey and having somebody as erudite as you to shine the light on the fuzzy bits is a great help!!

  6. colourmecrazee says:

    i think “christians” who have been in this game for such a long time, get caught up in all the “labels” and “terms” and “cliches” and have forgotten how to think about what they are saying – really THINK. i was caught up in it for many years, but when i started questioning things, i was extradited. *sigh*

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