The Significance of Christian Intercession -- By: D. Edmond Hiebert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 149:593 (Jan 1992)
Article: The Significance of Christian Intercession
Author: D. Edmond Hiebert

The Significance of Christian Intercession

D. Edmond Hiebert

Professor Emeritus of New Testament
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California

In 1 Timothy 2:1–4 Paul used four terms in referring to the prayers of God’s people. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1–4, NIV). In saying “first of all” Paul underlined the importance of this Godward aspect of the ministry of the church. Paul did not mean that such praying must be the first thing Christians do whenever they assemble, as the word order in the King James Version might imply, but rather that it is an activity he regarded as of primary importance in the total ministry of the church. His use of the present tense throughout these verses indicates that he was setting before them what he hoped would be the practice of those to whom he directed his prayer-exhortation. It is the essential and primary phase of their varied ministries.

His use of four terms, “requests,” “prayers,” “intercession,” and “thanksgiving,” makes it clear that Christian intercession is to be a part of believers’ prayer activity in their relationship with God. In Greek all four terms are plural and thus point to their recurrent usage. Montgomery’s translation well brings out the full force: “First of all then, I am urging that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be offered regularly for all men.”1 Paul was not

merely piling up words for rhetorical effect; but instead he clearly pointed to the varied aspects of the prayers of the church.

The first word, δεήσεις, rendered “requests” in the New International Version, is a general word for prayer and means “request” or “petition.” It was used of petitions directed either to God or to men. Derived from the verb δέομαι (“to want, to lack”), the noun “signifies a prayer which springs from the feeling of want.”2 The term thus denotes prayer arising from a sense of need, whatever the felt need may be. It depicts prayer prompted by one’s awareness of personal inadequacy to meet the need. Such a sense of need, whether one’s own or that of another, is ...

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