Intercession is not a ministry done from a place of strength and competence, but always as a desperate sinner praying for fellow desperate sinners. We identify with those we pray for because we are just like them.
And yet if we don't pray for ourselves (or even pray at all), how shall we even know how to effectively pray for others?
Consider an ordinary house lamp: we can furiously flip the light switch on and off and have no effect if the lamp is not plugged into the wall outlet. Sheer willpower will not propel intercession any more than flipping a switch can power a disconnected light bulb. But how different it is when we plug the lamp into the outlet!
What we need is to find an external resource that will effectively power our intercession.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul shows us where to find the power outlet for a life of intercession. In describing the spiritual armor of a believer, Paul says:
Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:17-18)
In these verses Paul clearly ties “praying in the Spirit” to the use of God’s Word when interceding for others. When the Spirit is active the Word will be present. When the Spirit is inactive, the sword stays in its sheath. Earlier in Ephesians this “Word” is revealed to be the gospel promises available to all “in Christ” through the powerful work of the cross (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:8-10; 2:14-22; 3:6-12).
This then brings us to a vital question we need to ask ourselves: are our times of prayer for others guided by and filled with the word of God? It seems that if our prayers for others are to have real traction, we will need the fuel of Scripture to power our prayers.
The Spirit-filled believer who uses the Word of God in prayer, is a believer whose lungs are made strong for the work of intercession.