Intercessory Prayer: Why Pray for Others?
For many people, life is hard and getting harder with each new day. People are hurting, their needs are great, and they often don’t know where to turn for relief. So they ask for prayer.
Lots of people needing lots of prayer. But with all the needs in our own lives and immediate families, why should interceding for people in our extended circles be a priority? And even if it is, where will we find time to pray for all these needs?
And yet, the Bible tells us to “Pray for one another” (James 5:16).
Is Not Praying a Sin?
The Bible speaks of various behaviors as sins. When we think of sins, several obvious ones come readily to mind, including lying, murder, gossip, pride, greed, and lust. So where does prayer fit into this list—or does it?
When he spoke to the ancient Israelites after they demanded a king similar to other nations, the prophet Samuel told them, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you (1 Samuel 12:23). The context for this verse is that the people had angered the Lord by asking for a king. When they realized the extent of God’s anger, they begged Samuel to pray for them.
Samuel understood the importance of praying for others, also called intercession. Failure to pray for his people was not just a sin against them, it was a sin against God.
You and I don’t have the prophetic responsibility Samuel had as he spoke for God to the people. But we do represent Christ to a watching world. And because we are ambassadors of Christ, the apostle Paul urges us to intercede for all people (1 Tim. 2:1).
The Best Intercessor
In John 17:6-24, often referred to as Jesus’s high priestly prayer, the Lord prayed for believers. In this prayer, He not only prayed for His disciples, but He looked down through history to pray for you and me:
“I pray for them. . . . My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:9, 20).
I hope I never forget Jesus prayed for me—and for you, too! Praying for others is so important that He set an example for us with His intercession, and He calls us to do the same for one another.
Removing Obstacles to Intercessory Prayer
The more I become aware of various prayer requests, the more I wonder how I can pray for all of them in my limited time. It helps me to keep a record of prayer needs—some on a daily basis, others weekly. It also helps to use observations throughout the day as memory triggers to send up brief prayers in the moment for various people.
What if someone stops you during the day to ask for prayer and you don’t have an opportunity to write yourself a reminder? Besides asking the Lord to remind you later, pray for them right then and there!
Have you ever wanted to pray for your pastor or other Christians, but you didn’t know what to pray for? The apostle Paul provides two helpful examples for us:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now those are both powerful prayers!
For whom is God calling you to intercede? Will you start today?
How have you benefited by interceding for other Christians?
How have you benefited from the intercession of other Christians?