A Duty to Intercede
(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David. (1) May Yahweh answer you in the day of distress. May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high. (2) May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion. (3) May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. (Selah) (4) May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans. (5) May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God may we set up our banners. May Yahweh fulfill all your requests.
In these five verses, the psalmist uses eleven verbs, each in one of two imperatival forms, the first called “jussive” and the other “cohortative.” Both convey earnest desire. We have no equivalent verbal forms in English. Instead, we must use a supplemental “may” or “let” to establish the meaning of these expressions. We then rely on vocal inflection to communicate the strength of what is being requested.
Note how the depth feeling increases over these five verses. In music, this effect is called a “crescendo” as the sound builds from softer (piano) to louder (forte). By the time the psalmist uses the word, “shout” (vs. 5), the psalm has reached full volume. Note also how the psalm communicates the same message, “May God answer your prayers,” in several different ways. In Israel’s corporate worship, this psalm was probably used to unite the congregation in praying for God’s blessing on the king.
May Yahweh answer the king’s prayers:
- by delivering him from danger (1)
- by sending him help from the sanctuary (2)
- by accepting his worship (3)
- by granting his desires (4)
- by giving him victory (5)
We demonstrate our support and loyalty to earthly rulers by interceding with God for them.
We sometimes confuse petition with intercession. Petition is making requests to God for mainly personal concerns, and there certainly is nothing wrong with that. Paul encouraged the believers at Philippi to pray in this way: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). However, bringing our personal needs and concerns to God is not the only way we should approach the throne of grace.
One of the ministries entrusted to us as New Testament believers is intercession, that is, praying for others. This includes family, friends, those serving the Lord at home and abroad, the lost, the needy, and those in authority. Paul gave the following instruction to Timothy for the members of the church he was pastoring: “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” (1 Tim. 2:1,2). In essence, the ministry of intercession is a vital means by which we can obey Jesus’ second great command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We are to pray regularly for those in authority whether they serve at a local, national, or international level of government or law enforcement. This is a ministry to which we should commit ourselves even when we find ourselves in disagreement with our leaders’ policies or struggle to respect their actions. The outline of Psalm 20 provides us with a good list of specifics for which we can pray as we carry out this important ministry.