This article was originally published in Edition (9) of Prayer Magazine,  Jan-Mar 2007.

Intercessors.  The word itself oftentimes causes leaders to either cringe or roll their eyes in disgust.  Mental images appear of a wild-eyed, flamboyant fanatic charging at us with a slicing rebuke from the Lord.  For far too long pastors and intercessors have maintained an adversarial relationship, rather than one of mutuality, support, and respect.  Can the local church really benefit from the ministry of prayer and intercession?  How does a pastor release this oftentimes misunderstood subgroup into their most effective ministry role to the Body of Christ?

1.  We as pastors must decide that we believe that prayer and intercession actually do have a valid role in the life of our congregation.  Most of us want some form of prayer ministry in our church.  But a commitment to intercession implies that we also desire extended and ongoing prayer times in the life of our congregation.  So we must also commit to release individuals in our congregation to spend extended times in prayer.

2. Pastors must identify individuals with an unusual desire or anointing for prayer and release them into the areas and issues to which the congregation needs intercession focused.  While I believe all in the Body of Christ are called to intercede, it does appear that some individuals pray more than others do.  Assisting these intercessors into focused intercession and committing to guide and shepherd them in their intercession will increase their effectiveness for the body.

With extended times of prayer in the life of a congregation come the revelations and insights that intercessors receive.  Individuals left to intercede on their own without pastoral covering will more than likely receive “words from the Lord” that are not in the spiritual life-flow of their congregation.  When these words are given to the pastor, the pastor many times easily discerns what is incorrect without recognizing that there might be some correct insights as well.  The pastor may reject the word altogether.  And the intercessor is then left feeling that the leadership rejects their loving sacrifice of prayer for the local congregation.  Offense can thereby easily enter into the relationship.  The intercessor then leaves the local church, praying judgment from heaven on the leadership as he or she goes!

3.  Maintaining continual pastor-intercessor contact breeds a safe environment for all.  In the congregation where I minister, we have a policy that a member of the leadership attends every church-sponsored prayer meeting.  Even prayer groups in homes will have a member of the staff present.  In that way, we are able to communicate to the intercessors the overall vision for the congregation and what the Holy Spirit is currently speaking to the leadership.  We in turn are available to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to the intercessors and then communicate those words to the pastoral leadership team.  Clear communication fosters an environment where we can easily discern what the Spirit is speaking to the church at any given time.  And misunderstanding and offense is defeated in the process.

4.  Be aware that intercessors may be more discerning of the spiritual climate of our congregations and city than we realise.  Because intercessors typically spend long periods of time in prayer, they develop great sensitivity to what the Holy Spirit is speaking.  Oftentimes emotional sensitivity develops along with that spiritual sensitivity.  Because the Lord sometimes speaks in unusual ways, intercessors sometimes fear that they will be perceived as unusual or weird.  Most intercessors genuinely do not want to appear flaky or out of order to the leadership.  Therefore, it is important that pastors have a basic understanding of biblical symbolism and prophetic types.  Pastors who flow in prophetic giftings will find it easier to interpret dreams, visions, prophetic pictures and revelations.  These prophetic words will then be easier to integrate into the life of the body.

5.  When a word is given to the leadership that the leadership discerns is not fully accurate, the leadership must know how to lovingly receive yet correct the insight.  Due to the before mentioned sensitivities, correction needs to be given without threatening the relationship or the intercessor’s capacity to hear from the Lord.  Affirm what is good and right.  Lovingly encourage the intercessor to keep praying and pressing in.  Yet carefully explain why you feel the revelation contains error—whether biblical error or a contextual misapplication of biblical truth.

Again, most intercessors desire to encourage and be in submission to the leadership.  When they are convinced that they are not going to be rejected by the leadership, they will be more open to receive counsel and correction.  It is our responsibility as pastors to create an atmosphere where individuals in the body know they will not be rejected or condemned, even if they share something that is off the mark.

6.  Intercessors need times to express what God has placed on their hearts whether it be through weeping, laughing, shouting or travailing.  I have found it important to have periodic meetings where intercessors can corporately release their prayer burdens in a safe environment.  This means that I as their shepherd must safeguard the atmosphere in these meetings so that the image of God within them will be neither violated nor quenched.

When properly released into their place of ministry, intercessors can activate the vision, purposes and plans the Lord has for your local church. 
And they can be the pastor’s most loyal supporters and best of friends!


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