Having defined worship, what is intercessory worship? Well, to get there defining intercession is an important place to start. Since the adjective ‘intercessory’ is not actually used in scripture it is necessary to start with the noun. The scriptures use the noun intercession seven times and the verb intercessor on one occasion.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 (NKJV)
16 “Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you. Jeremiah 7:16 (NKJV)
18 But if they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, do not go to Babylon.’ Jeremiah 27:18 (NKJV)
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26 (NKJV)
27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27 (NKJV)
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:34 (NKJV)
25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)
16 He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. Isaiah 59:16 (NKJV)
While the above verses provide all the examples in the scriptures the concept is throughout the scriptures. As well, in the verses above some of the examples point to prayer and some point to other actions. The best example is the first one, Isaiah 53:12. Isaiah 53 is the most famous prophetic passage in the OT pointing to Jesus redeeming sacrifice on our behalf because it describes in advance what happened on the cross. In this instance Jesus ‘intercession’ was the laying down of His life on our behalf. In broad terms this example gets at what intercession is truly all about, an intervention in a situation to change an outcome.
The most famous intercessory passage in the OT does not use the term intercession. It is Ezekiel’s ‘stand in the gap’ passage.
29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 22:29-31 (NKJV)
In this example a course of action was determined and Yahweh looked for someone to change the direction of what was happening. When no one did His wrath was poured out on the nation because there was no intercession. Let me illustrate further.
Have you ever planted a garden? If you planted vegetables and the plants never grew properly and you never received a meaningful harvest how would you respond? Would you simply continue planting and hoping or would you try to determine what the gap was between your expectation and results? Would you intervene to determine the problem? What kind of intervention would you do?
Let’s connect this to Isaiah and back to Ezekiel. In Isaiah we have the Middle Eastern image of a vineyard rather than a garden, with the same principles applying.
1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. Isaiah 5:1-2 (NKJV)
This passage is connected to the Ezekiel passage in that in both cases the issue was Israel not producing the harvest Yahweh both expected and deserved. The problem was that there was a gap between the expectations and the results. This gap is like the space between a stimulus and response. We tend to think of the two as inextricably linked yet they are not. In the garden and vineyard examples the stimulus is the planting and the response is the poor harvest. However, between the stimulus, the planting, and the poor harvest, the response, there is a gap; an opportunity, a place of possibility to intervene or intercede and see a different result!
Thus, intercession is standing in the gap between stimulus and response to change the course of a life, a community or a nation. So tying these concepts together, here is how I see intercession.
Intercession as an activity, generally prayer, which is intended to bring about change.
I see Intercessory Worship as a dynamic blend of worship and intercession that engages the heart in His strategic purposes and is led by the Holy Spirit. It may be either individual or corporate.
So based on this definition are we engaging in intercessory worship?