God’s Word consistently encourages us to pray for others. In one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, the apostle said, “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Later, Paul would say that such prayers are “good” and pleasing to God. When we make time to make requests for others, the Lord receives the worship He deserves and others are helped by the work of our intercessions.
I don’t know about you, but praying for others is sometimes a hard thing to do. Life often seems too busy. Incessant demands squeeze out the most important work. Intercession is something many aspire after, but few see it actualized in their lives. I hate to admit it, but there are times in which I have said I would pray for someone, and then I failed to do it. Sometimes, I get the feeling that a lot of our promises in this matter are insincere. Do we back every “I’ll be praying for you” with genuine prayers? How can we be better in this regard? What does it take to move from the niceties of religion to a real commitment to serious intercession? Let me share four ways in which we can become more intentional and effective in praying for others.
Pray in the Moment.
I’ll be honest. I get so many prayer requests thrown my way, it is hard to keep up with them all. If you are an active part of a local church, you probably feel the same way. It is simply impossible to keep up with every need of every person you know. To help with the onslaught of requests, I’ve found that it is beneficial to pray immediately, in the moment when the request is given. If a friend approaches me with a need over the phone or in person, I often ask, “Can we pray about this right now?”
When there are others who have crises and cares which seem more severe, I commit them to a list. My goal is then to pray over that list on a regular basis. From looking at the lists of names which Paul assembled, it seems he had a similar method (see Romans 16:1-16). In the past, a lot of believers used the flyleaf of their Bible to keep record of such requests. I have numerous family Bibles which belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents. The pages within are filled with names written in cursive. You could do something similar. Or, you could use modern technology. Smart phones can store a seemingly infinite number of prayer requests on the pre-installed notes application.
Set Aside Time.
When you make lists, you need to make a time to actually pray over them. Do like Daniel (see Daniel 6:10), David (see Psalm 55:17), and Jesus (see Mark 1:35). Carve out a special time to regularly pray over your prayer needs.
Many struggle to pray for others, because they don’t know what to pray. Fortunately, Scripture is chockfull of examples. If you don’t know how to intercede on behalf of others, simply use one of Paul’s prayers as a guide (see Ephesians 1:15-19 and 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-11).