You didn’t know there was a difference? Well neither did I. But in a single sentence, prayer is what you do and intercession is what God tells you to pray.
Prayer is natural, that is, when you are in a tight spot, you pray automatically. You don’t really need to think about it.
One reporter said said when people are in a car accident, the first thing they say is “Oh God no.” Vladimir Putin, affirmed atheist and Communist boss said when he entered the Oval Office during George W. Bush’s Presidency, “Oh my God.” I thought Putin didn’t have a god! We can’t stop that kind of prayer.
In contrast, intercession is what God wants done.
This past week I could not get to sleep thinking about a friend. The Bible calls this a “burden.” It is something on your mind and you don’t have a clue what it is all about. I asked someone, do you ever think God is sitting on your chest? That is the way I felt.
I knew nothing about this person that might be wrong. I called the next day, and nothing seemed wrong, but then again, nothing seemed right either.
The scripture says this:”If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does and seeks to provide us a prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” Romans 8:27
An old friend of mine, Jackie, was driving along one day and she began to cry. She pulled over to the side of the road because she could not see through her tears, and started praying for a mutual friend named David. That went on for about a half hour. Then she dried her tears and drove off.
Later she learned David was standing on the roof of a building ready to commit suicide that afternoon. David told her later that as he stood on the edge of the roof he felt a giant hand hold him back and he stepped down. That is intercession.
The same word, groan, appears once more in the New Testament. John 11:33 “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.” This verse appears right before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The Greek word can also be translated as “sigh” which is what you would do if God sat on your chest.
The notion of a spiritual burden also appears in 2 Corinthians 5:4, referring to our physical bodies and wanting to be released to heaven. These earthly bodies make us groan and sigh,. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will, as it were, be swallowed up by everlasting life.
The Greek word for groan is bareo, meaning pressure. You feel pressured to pray for someone which is intercession. We can rejoice that God has given us this blessing to pray for others, when we have no notion they need it.