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A short guide to intercessory prayer

Tearfund's Rachael Adams shares a guide to how we can pray for people around the world.

Rachael Adams | 08 Jan 2021

Our world is broken. We only have to turn on the TV or switch on our phones to see news alerts showing us the latest tragedy. And there are many more stories that don’t get media attention. But God is at work in the midst of the chaos. And through prayer we can join him in bringing healing to our broken world.

But how do we do this? The term most Christians would use is intercessory prayer, which just means praying to God for other people.

The Bible is full of examples of people praying to God on behalf of other people. And we can be encouraged because many of these stories include answers to prayers.

In the Old Testament, we are told that God heard the cries of the Israelites before setting them free (Exodus 3:7). Moses spent days praying to God on behalf of Joshua and the Israelties who were on the battlefield (Exodus 17). The prophets – Ezekiel, Joel, Deborah, Habakkuk, Samuel and Hosea to name just a few, all interceded for nations, calling for, among other things, forgiveness, judgement, mercy and an end to drought.

In the New Testament, Paul asks repeatedly for prayers from places like Corinth, Ephesus and Rome. Paul also teaches that we should ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ (Galatians 6:2)

The Gospels make clear that Jesus wants all people everywhere to experience the love of God. Philip Yancey, in his book Prayer, makes note that not once does Jesus turn down a request for physical healing. In the Gospels, it makes clear that Jesus desires us to have life and life to the full (John 10:10). This includes every aspect of our being: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical.

But in this broken world, not everyone is able to live life to the full. Poverty, conflict, the climate crisis and the pandemic have robbed people of hope, health and opportunities. We know God’s plan is to restore this world and so, as Paul urges us to, let us pray for people who are struggling, that they may have life in abundance.

God is already at work. But we have the privilege of being able to join with him through prayer to help our global neighbours.

Where to begin

It can be difficult to know where to start, with so many challenging situations across the world. So here are our tips on how to get started:

A marathon not a sprint

Intercession changes us. When we bring others before God our attitudes begin to shift as our hearts become more aligned with God’s plan for the world. We get to see how God sees the world – how much he loves individual people and creation – and our relationship with God and others becomes deeper as a result.

You may not see answers to prayer immediately, or see the effect your prayers are having on people’s lives, but you can be assured that all things work according to God’s glory. Your prayers will be making a difference and will change lives.

There will be times when situations seem impossible, but we are praying to a God who can do even more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We are praying to a God who healed the blind, parted the seas, and who created the entire Earth. So feel free to pray your biggest and boldest prayers.

And when we are tired, or unsure of what to say – when the situation feels too big – remember that ‘the spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans’ (Romans 8:26). Our prayers can take the form of silence, sobs or even shaking our fists and stamping our feet at the injustice in the world. God listens. God understands. God cares.

Where to next?

If you’re looking for ways to practise intercessory prayer and to regularly pray for some of the world’s poorest people then we can help you.

Each week in our weekly prayer email, One Voice, we share short prayer points from three counties to help you pray. We also include stories from around the world, which include prayer requests from the people we serve and from our global staff and partners. You can also use the information in these stories to help further guide your prayers.

If you would like to sign up to receive One Voice please email our lovely team at who will be able to help you out.

All of the stories included in the email are published later on the Tearfund website under the stories pages, so do check them out.

Our global staff and partners really appreciate how so many of you faithfully stand with us each week in prayer, interceding for us and the people we serve. It makes such a difference. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers, and know that in these difficult times, we continue to hold you in our prayers too.

  Rachael Adams

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