Authority works in two directions. We need to understand the authority that we have in Jesus, but we must also understand the limits of authority, because of people and organisations that have taken it, or been given authority on earth by people submitting to them. Authority is more important than numbers for effective prayer.

Here is another important principle.

We can only give God permission to act on earth in situations where we have authority.
Much of the prayer for cities and nations is wasted, because the people who are praying do not have much authority over the political systems they are praying for. If the rulers of a city are not Christians, they are by default, continuously giving the forces of evil authority to act in their city or nation. Christians can bind these political-spirits and government-spirits and command them to leave the city, but they do not need to depart, if they have been invited to be there by leaders of the city, because the leaders have more authority in the city than the people praying.

Intercession is only effective in situations where we have authority on earth. Being seated at the right hand of God, in Jesus, does not give us the ability to make people do things that they do not want to do. If it did, Christians would already control the world. Our prayers will not be effective for people whom we do not have authority over, because they have more authority in their lives than we do. Intercessors cannot change the behaviour of a king, president or prime minister unless that king, president or prime minister has submitted to them.

Letting the Holy Spirit Speak

We have authority to let the Holy Spirit speak to people who do not follow Jesus. Every citizen has a right to ask for an appointment with their king, president or prime minister. They have the right to speak to them. Therefore, I can give the Holy Spirit authority to speak to my king, president or prime minister on my behalf, ie prophets and intercessors can give the Holy Spirit permission to their president or prime minister on their behalf. They can tell the Holy Spirit what they want him to say. He will speak it, if the words are from God. So, the Holy Spirit can speak to kings, presidents or prime ministers, even if he does not have authority to change their behaviour.

I am free to speak to any person I meet. Therefore, I can give the Holy Spirit authority to speak to any person that I mee on my behalf. We should ask the Father what he wants to say to the people we encounter and give the Holy Spirit to speak those words to the person.

Of course, a king, a president, a prime minister and the person I meet on the street are free to ignore the voice of the Spirit, and they often do.

Authority comes through submission. We have authority over people who have submitted to us, as an elder, or by asking for prayer or seeking our wisdom and advice.

Submission releases Power

Authority works the other way too. If I submit to a person or organisation, then I give them authority over my life. For example, if I submit to a government by voting in and election or asking them to provide services, I am giving that government authority over me. They have usually already claimed authority over me, but my submission authenticates their authority.

Likewise, when I submit to the elders or pastors of a church, I am giving them authority over me. They might already claim that God has already given them authority over me, but that is not right, because in the Kingdom of God, authority comes from the bottom up through submission, not by being imposed from the top down. Anyway, if I submit to the pastor and elders claiming authority over me, I am authenticating their authority.

When we submit to the leaders of an organisation, religious or political, we give them authority in lives, which also gives any spiritual powers that dominate them authority in our lives. By submitting to a government (local or central) I give the spiritual powers that work through it access to my life. Likewise, by submitting to the pastor or elders of a church, I give any spirits that have an influence in their lives access into mine.

We should be careful about how we submit in the work place by being clear that we are only submitting on work related issues, but not spiritual ones. In our prayers, we should declare to any spiritual power that controls our employer, that we have not given them authority in our lives.

Christians should be careful about submitting to political authorities, because when we submit to them, we are vulnerable to the political-spirits that control them. If we are standing to together in unity with other Christians, that may not be a problem, but if we are isolated from spiritual support, we might come under attack.


The one situation where God allows us to use force is dealing with demons. They often have to be forced out. However, God does not really have to force them, because unlike humans, demons are authority serving beings. They always obey the closest voice with authority. So, they leave when a voice of authority commands them to go.

We have authority to command demons to leave in the name of Jesus and they must obey.

But even here, there is a catch. If the person whom the demon is harassing has given it permission to be in their life (often unwittingly) and that person does not acknowledge the authority of the person praying, then the demon may say, “I acknowledge the authority of the person giving me permission to be here” and choose to stay. Or it may leave temporarily, and return promptly with other demons that are more evil. One reason that demons sometimes fail to leave is that the person in need does not submit to the authority person praying.

The situation with the Sons of Sceva is illustrative (Eph 17:13-15). The demon recognised the authority of Jesus, and the authority of Paul, but they did not acknowledge the authority of the Sons of Sceva, even though they used Jesus name, and trusted in his power. When praying for demons, the authority of Jesus and the authority of the person praying are both essential. The person praying gains authority when the person in need submits to them for help. Many of the people in Ephesus had submitted to Paul, so he had authority to cast demons of their lives.

Deal with Issues

Prayer is incredibly important, because it gives God permission to work on earth. I have explained why in Prayer and Authority). However, we need to begin in the place where people are. Christians put a lot of effort into prayer, with poor results. They become frustrated, because many of their prayers are not answered. The resulting disappointment undermines their faith, which is sad. They have to shrug and pretend that their prayer not being answered does not matter. These disappointed people need a better understanding of how prayer does and does not work.

Many people, when they don't have their prayers answered, just shrug their shoulders and say "It was not God's will" or "That person did not have enough faith", or "That person is not good enough", but I am not prepared to do that. I try to learn from the experiences, and the answer I get sometimes surprises me, and other people do not accept it. This can be harder to deal with than just shrugging your shoulders.

One reason that prayers are not answered is that God has given people freedom, so he will not force them to do things against their will. The Holy Spirit will often put ideas in the minds of evil people, and they will sometimes do what he suggested, because they like his ideas, especially if it is good for them. The Holy Spirit is quite happy to work with this constraint and he is smart enough to get God's will done despite it.

We can be confident God will achieve his long-term goals, but he does not manipulate and control all human activities. This means that our prayers will only be fulfilled, if they line up with what the Holy Spirit can achieve.

Our prayers are more effective in situations where we have authority. The Holy Spirit better able to intercede on behalf of people who have given us authority in their lives than in the lives of political leaders of other nations that we have no involvement in. If Christians are praying that God will do everything that is on their hearts and minds, without asking the Holy Spirit what God actually wants to do, then most of those prayers will not be answered. This will lead to disappointment.

We also need to be careful about false positives: things that appear to be linked, but are not, ie situations where what we prayed for happened, but this was not the result of our prayers. Consider a presidential election. Christians will be praying for their candidate: some will be praying for one and some will be praying for another. The group whose candidate gets in will assume that their prayers were answered, when actually their candidate would have won anyway, because God did not care who won, but allowed the people to choose.

When things that we have prayed for happen, we can't just assume that it was the result of our prayers, because they may have happened anyway. We must be humble about the power of our prayers, because what we asked for may have been going to happen anyway, regardless of whether we had prayed or not.

That said, prayer can have a real effect, if we seek out what the Holy Spirit wants to do in situations where we have influence or authority.

The limitation is not our prayers, but the limitations that God has imposed on himself, by giving humans freedom and authority on earth. It is God that is constrained, not our prayers. The key is to ensure that we are praying according to his will and with alignment to the way that he has set the world up. If we understood, this much of the frustration would go.

Many Christians see currently see prayer as omnipotent, because they assume that God has detailed control over everything (the technical name is meticulous providence). Naturally they are disappointed when they pray and nothing happens.

Pretending is not faith. However, honest and truthy are much better.

Holy Spirit

The key to intercession is to be full of the Spirit. However, we must understand that if we are in Jesus, we have the fulness of the Holy Spirit within us. We cannot have half of the Holy Spirit, or a quarter of the Holy Spirit, so we always have his fullness. Thus, if he is limited in his activity, then the problem is with us constraining him from working freely. So, the goal is to be open to his operation, so that he is free to do what he wants to do through us. I am seeking to learn to be sufficiently open to the Holy Spirit so that he can do all that he wants to do through me.

I realise that he prefers to work through small groups of people who are united by love. So, we cannot experience all he wants, if we are stuck in isolation. He prefers to work by giving different people different parts of what the wants to do, ie one has a gift of faith, another has the world of knowledge, another has the gift of healing. So, to experience more of what the wants to do, we must be united with others. Learning to work in small teams in the unity of the Holy Spirit is key.

The gospel is the best means for bring about social change. Jesus did not tell his disciples to go and intercede with God. He told us to go and heal the sick, cast out demons, and declare the good news of his kingdom. Intercession alone is not enough. So, sharing the gospel, supported by prayer, is the key to changing the world.

No Guarantee

Intercession can be hard, but it is never a waste of time. Praying opens the way for the Lord to do things that he could not do if he was not given permission by someone with authority in a situation (See Keys to Effective Prayer).

Unfortunately, with intercession, there is no guarantee of success. God has made people free, so he cannot get them to act if they choose not to. He cannot make people do things that the intercessors are praying. All he can do is speak to their hearts by the Holy Spirit, but if they refuse to act on the voice of the Spirit, there is nothing that God can do. He can make asses speak and move, but he cannot make humans do what they do not want to do, because he has made them free.

The frustration that intercessors often feel is the same frustration that the Lord feels. He wants his people to be moving on in the full power of the Spirit, but that can only happen, if they do things his way. He can speak, over and over again, but he is often ignored. This is even more frustrating for him, than it is for his intercessors.