Praying for Others (Intercessory Prayer)

Every few months I get a message from a friend in India: “This is just a quick note to tell you that your names came up in my prayer diary today… so you were definitely remembered. Do you have any specific requests for us to keep in mind?”

It’s amazing to me how often this message comes when there is a very specific need in my life, and knowing that I can count on at least one person to be praying with me about it is hugely comforting.

This is what is meant by intercessory prayer—praying for others. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells us who we should intercede for:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and 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 people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

To that list Ephesians 6:18 adds “always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” And let’s not forget Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” By this point is there anyone left that you should NOT pray for?

“But,” I can hear you say, “I don’t have the spiritual gift of intercession.” While there are some, no doubt, who are especially gifted by the Spirit to intercede for others, no believer is excused from such prayers.

So what should you pray about? Just a few of the things the Bible exhorts us to pray for are: salvation of the lost; for those undergoing persecution; healing; strength to overcome temptation or addiction; pray about jobs, relationships;… When God brings someone to your mind, that probably means you should pray for them.

Next, how should you pray?

  • Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)
  • Pray in faith, believing (Matthew 21:22)
  • Pray boldly (Hebrews 4:16)
  • Pray asking the Holy Spirit to translate our prayers (Romans 8:26-27)

Charles Stanley adds one warning to those who would engage in intercessory prayer. He says,

When praying for others, we must be willing to be part of the answer if necessary. If we aren’t willing to be used to answer our own prayers, we aren’t cooperating with God. As a result, He won’t cooperate with us; He won’t answer our prayers. Why? Because these are prayers of isolation and separation. We are saying, “God I don’t want to get mixed up in anyone’s problems. You take care of that.”[1]

And don’t quit too soon. Sometimes it takes years before God answers a specific prayer. It doesn’t mean He has forgotten; it doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. It means that the prayer will be answered at the perfect time—God’s timing. That timing may not make sense to us, but it does to God. Remember Mary and Martha couldn’t understand why Jesus didn’t come immediately to prevent Lazarus from dying. But Jesus’ delay had a purpose—“for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

Finally, Charles Stanley again, “When we intercede for others, we must persevere. We must be willing to keep on praying until the answer comes. One reason we don’t see more answers to prayer is because we aren’t willing to pay the price; and often the price is time.”[2]

Unlike the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, let’s be willing to “keep watch” (Matthew 26:40) for as many hours, days, weeks, months, years as it takes to get answers for those on our prayer list.

Thank you, my friend, for praying for me.

[1] Charles Stanley, Handle with Prayer: Unwrap the Source of God’s Strength for Living (David C. Cook. Kindle Edition), p. 123, emphasis added.

[2] Ibid.

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