Should we pray for others? I heard a story recently of a lady who did not think it right to pray for others, but who said she'd think about a man who needed prayer, and hope that all goes well.
Well, having good thoughts about someone is a good thing, but the Bible is clear that it is also a good thing to pray for others. Jesus gave us the example, as He prayed for others.
In John 16:6-24, Christ prays for his disciples—that God would protect them from the evil one as they went out into the world to spread the Word— and for those who would hear their message and come to believe that God had sent his son to save the world. In John 17 we have his High Priestly prayer for us. Christ prayed for others and so should we.
We are also commanded to pray for others:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" — Matthew 5:43-45a.
Paul asked his friends to pray for him and his ministry:
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should" — Colossians 4:2-4.
"I urge, then first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all 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 men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. … I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" — 1 Timothy 2:1-4, 8.
We are also given some concrete Biblical examples of praying for others:
"Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends his greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured" — Colossians 4:12.
"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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 also 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 the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe" — Ephesians 1:16-19a.
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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 saints, 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 to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through out all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" —Ephesians 3:14-21.
“And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him. If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life…” 1 John 5:15-16
“15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:15-16
Praying for others, or intercession, is one of the opportunities we have to express God’s love to people. When we make the effort and time to pray for others, we can expect amazing results, assuming we are praying with the right heart attitude (in humility & reverence).
The above verses point out some of the possible results of intercession:
• God will hear us
• God will give life to the person we are praying for
• God will make the sick person well and raise him up
• God will forgive the person’s sins as we pray with him or her for forgiveness
A minister friend of mine also pointed out that prayer is a marvelous gift that blesses you and those for whom you pray. Whenever you pray for others, your connection with God will shift your consciousness and bless you. Of course, those for whom you pray are also blessed by the positive effect of your prayers—and the love of God—in their hearts, minds, and lives. After all, the experience of God is the real need of all people. The gift of your prayers is the love of God shared through you. Doesn’t it feel good to be loved and loving?
But prayer with others and for others is not only helpful to us, it is also associated with all the great spiritual awakenings. For example, the Evangelical Revival in England in the late 18th century began in a little "Holy Club" at Oxford. So impressed were John and Charles Wesley with the prayer principle that every Methodist society was organized into small prayer meetings for others. Similarly the great revival in America in 1857-1858 was empowered and nurtured in such prayer meetings.
All in all, the great evidence of the Bible and the witness of Christian History show that Praying for Each Other is a good and right thing to do. Good thoughts are a wonderful thing, but they should be partnered with prayer.