It is important for believers to engage in various types of prayer. One type is intercession — praying on behalf of other people. Oswald Chambers has said, “Without intercession…someone will be impoverished.” I believe that such impoverishment is experienced by both the person who fails to intercede, and by the victims who don’t receive intercession. Unfortunately, many believers within our me-centered society have neglected this discipline. They rationalize that they are too busy. When they do pray, they offer a flurry of self-focused requests, never pausing to mention the needs of others. There is nothing wrong with praying for ourselves, but there is something wrong with failing to pray for others. Let’s commit ourselves to this practice. I believe three Scriptural ideas will help.
The Power of Intercession
One of my favorite stories in Scripture is the story of Job. Though I don’t delight in his experience of suffering, I receive encouragement from the way in which he faced it. He lost everything — his possessions, his reputation, and his children. For days and days, he had to endure the insensitive advice and scorn of his closest friends. Finally, the Lord appeared. Job learned that there weren’t easy answers or canned solutions. He simply needed to trust in the Lord. The narrative concerning Job’s suffering concludes with the man interceding on behalf of his friends. Scripture says, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions” (Job 42:10). Though the Bible doesn’t guarantee that intercessory prayer will lead to a pay raise or life of wealth for modern believers, the principle remains — God blesses the lives of those who pray for others. When we embrace humility and consider others before ourselves (see Philippians 2:3-4), something supernatural occurs within us. Because our prerogative is no longer centered primarily on self, the Lord is freed to release his contentment, joy, and peace in our hearts.
A Pattern for Intercession
Some people struggle with praying for others because they don’t know what to pray. I know the feeling. Early in my Christian journey, I didn’t know what to say. In time, I learned that there is help in the Bible. It is filled with prayers on behalf of others. We can use them as a guide. We can repeat them word-for-word back to the Lord, or we can ad-lib as we pray, interjecting personal thoughts and ideas. Either way, Scripture is an excellent guide for intercessory prayers. Consider using passages like John 17:15-23, Philippians 1:9-11, and Colossians 1:9-11.
A Promise for Intercession
When we pray according to the principles of God’s Word, we are guaranteed that God will answer. 1 John 5:14 says, “Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Don’t get discouraged in your attempts to pray for others. Keep praying Scripture over the lives of those you love. God will honor His Word and work according to His will. I have seen this happen in my own life. It is so awesome to see the Lord work in the lives of others through our faithfulness to intercede.
Dr. Patrick Latham