Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
How many times do we have people say to us, “Will you please pray for me?” Or, how many times have you said to someone, “I’ll pray for you?” Maybe some of you even cringed when you read the title of this post, thinking, “Great, what now? This usually means there is a problem.” It seems that we say this so much that it has almost become a part of our vernacular that doesn’t really mean anything. I’ve seen non-believers tell others that their “thoughts and prayers” are with someone when another is going through hard times. Why would they pray if they don’t even believe in prayer? When we hear about the passing of a person, we often tell the loved ones of the deceased, “I will pray for you.” But, do we really mean that? Do we really pray? Do we consciously sit and pray for specific items in the lives of others? Perhaps a better question is, “Should we be praying for others?”
This past Sunday, the topic of the message at church was regarding intercessory prayer. Are you still trying to get past that 5-syllable word? I can imagine your eyes just glazed over. <grin> Now, you’re probably counting the syllables to make sure I was telling you an accurate number. <smile> Let’s make it simple. Intercessory prayer is simply when you pray for another person. I thought I’d try an experiment this week based on Sunday’s message. So, what was my experiment? On the way to work each day this week, I stopped to pray silently for family and friends. Instead of just assuming they knew I was praying for them, I texted them to let them know I was praying for them and I also included a Bible verse that I thought was relevant. And often, I told them exactly what I was praying for. We see in the passage from James above that we are called to “pray for each other.” I typically do this for my very close friends, but I wanted to put this into practice for many people to see exactly what would happen. Interestingly, I received no less than 3 separate prayer requests from people who don’t normally ask me to pray for them. I received responses that prayer requests had been answered, and I didn’t even know what those requests were, nor did I know they had prayer requests to begin with. Some were encouraged and were thankful for the prayers. Very few people never responded to the text. I have to believe that God still worked in their lives, and He probably did some awesome things. I know that God made this a great week for me as I spent time with Him by praying for others. I’ve been basking in His love all week because of it.
It’s interesting that we even see Jesus praying for Simon when Jesus knew that Simon’s faith would fail. Have you ever prayed for someone knowing full well that the person was going to do the opposite of what you were praying for? Don’t you think it’s intriguing that Jesus prayed anyway when he knew this very thing? He prayed Simon’s faith wouldn’t fail (although Jesus knew it would) and that after Simon turned back, he prayed for Simon’s future. I can’t imagine the honor it must have been to have the Savior of the entire world pray for you, and then be humbled to know that I was going to fail at what He was asking for.
So, why intercessory prayer? I mean, if a person is going to sin anyway, why pray for them? First, it reminds us that others are more important than ourselves. Remember the second greatest commandment, which is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). When we lift others up in prayer before ourselves, we are obeying the second greatest commandment. Secondly, it enables us to be like Christ. It reminds me that I should pray for others even when I know (or at least, think I know) that they are going to fail at what I am praying for. If we want to be like Christ, then intercessory prayer is an opportunity to emulate His love for us. Thirdly, it causes us to grow spiritually. When we are deep in prayer spending time on one of the greatest commandments; our faith will grow, our relationship with God will grow, and our relationship with those we pray for will grow.
Be honest, when someone says, “Please pray for me,” do you actually pray for them, or is it just a figure of speech to you? God asks us to take time to pray for others. Will you do what He asks this week?