The intercessor is one who “stands between” or “goes between” an individual, or community and God. Intercession is prayer “on behalf of” another and addresses itself to concerns, issues, problems, conflicts, or suffering that require God’s special attention. Intercession is the priestly prayer of the body of Christ and in intercession it is the congregation, the people of God who are intercessors – not the priest, minister, or leader. For this reason it is often called the “prayers of the people.”
Open Prayers of the People – Intercession is sometimes offered in a less formal way, with the pastor or priest asking openly for prayer concerns, attempting to gather them into a prayer on the spot. This practice is often a wonderful experience of community prayer. Often, however, it ceases to be prayer, and becomes “announcement time,” or a time when the congregation is not “at prayer” but simply sharing concerns, as they might in a small devotional group. It is important for the leader to use a form that will encourage the congregation to remain in a state of prayer. One of the best forms to accomplish this is:
1. invite the congregation into prayer, asking for prayers.
2. while the congregation remains in prayer, move among the congregation (with a hand held microphone if possible) and stand at a particular pew or row of chairs (or have someone else do this) and receive both the person’s name and brief prayer of intercession.
3. before moving on, repeat in a short sentence form a bidding prayer, (“Let us pray for”…) followed by a category of prayer (“healing and comfort”) followed by the specific object of the congregation’s intercession (” for Jim Smith’s mother, Mary), followed by an invitation for response in an attitude of prayer (“Lord in Your mercy”)
full example: Let us pray for healing and comfort, for Jim Smith’s mother Susan. Lord in your Mercy:
4. followed by a congregational response: “Hear our Prayer.”
5. Then move to the next person with a petition.
This process can then be concluded with a collect, or with one of the forms of prayer below. The entire process is done in an attitude of prayer. 1) We hear the prayer, 2) we rephrase the prayer, 3) we ask for the congregation’s prayer, 4) they respond with prayer.
When a form of open prayer is not used, there are many other forms for intercessory prayer. Since intercession is “on behalf of,” it will include petitions. Since it is corporate, it is important that these petitions be included in a form that is participatory as possible. Some possible forms of intercession include:
A. Bidding Prayer Form
- Invocation and Introductory sentence focusing on the nature of the prayer – for example: “Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you taught us to pray for the many needs of others.
- Bidding Prayer – “Let us pray for the world.”
- Collect – Remember, a collect is a single sentence prayer, expressing a single petition or theme. It is rendered in a five-fold patter which includes invocation, relative clause, petition, statement of purpose, conclusion:
“Creator God, (invocation) you made all things in your wisdom, and in your love you save us. (relative clause) We pray for all creation. Order unruly powers, deal with injustice, feed and satisfy those who thirst for justice, (petitions) so that your children may freely enjoy the earth you have made, and cheerfully sing your praises; (statement of purpose) through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (conclusion)
- Response – “Amen”: or “Hear our Prayer, O God.”
Then you return to the next bidding prayer. The prayer ends with a concluding collect
B. Litany Form –
- Invocation and Relative Clause – Almighty God, (invocation) who answers the prayers of the faithful and hears the cries of the distressed, (relative clause)
- Series of petitions that end with identical words or other recognizable cues.
L: For peace in the world
for the welfare of the church of God and for the unity of all peoples,
let us pray to the Lord
P: Lord, have mercy
C. Congregational Bidding Prayer Form
This form of prayer is divided into categories.
- Enumerative Bidding Prayer – Member of congregation or deacon lists a series of concerns representing one category such as the church:
“We ask your prayers for God’s people throughout the world:
for church leaders in Iraq, China, Europe and throughout the world, and for this gathering.”
- Bidding Prayer – Leader summarizes with a call to prayer indicating the broad category of prayer to be followed:
“let us pray for the church”
- Silent Prayer A moment of silent prayer follows.
- Concluding collect (repeat pattern)
D. Litany Form including silent prayer
- Bidding Prayer – Leader suggests category for prayer:
“Let us pray for the church and for the world.”
- Petition – a brief prayer:
“Grant almighty God, that all who confess our name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.
- Responsive Cue – “Lord, in your mercy”
- Congregational response – “Hear our prayer”
- (repeat pattern)
- Concluding Collect – Ends with a concluding collect
E. Pastoral prayer with concluding Amen
- Bidding Prayer – Having gathered together the concerns to be prayed for, the minister offers calls the congregation to prayer indicating the category to be addressed in prayer:
“Let us pray for those who are ill.”
- Petitions – which lists and addresses the concerns gathered and others.
- Response – Congregation responds with “Amen” after each section.
- Concluding Collect – Ends with concluding collect.
F. Pastoral Prayer with one concluding Amen
- Pastor offers a number of petitions in connected collects.
- People respond with a concluding “Amen.”