Praying for Others
- Realize that it's important to pray for others
- Feel sure that praying for others makes a difference in their lives and our own
- Practice praying for others
The Lord's Prayer teaches us something we often overlook. Jesus teaches us to pray in the plural. It's "our Father," "our daily bread," "our sins," etc. In other words, Jesus wants us to constantly have other people in mind as we pray. It's not that praying for ourselves is wrong, but that in praying for ourselves, we need to keep in mind that we are a part of a community, and a part of God's world.
In the passages for this session we also notice that Paul is always praying for the churches he has helped to establish. He thanks God for them, and he prays for their spiritual growth and welfare. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul urges that our prayers have an even wider horizon. He asks that "intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people," especially those who are in power. Why pray for the powerful and those who govern? Because God has placed them in positions of authority for our welfare.
There are two reasons we need to be reminded of this. The first is that we all tend to be self-centered and our prayers can reflect it. If we analyze our prayers, I dare say that most of them center on our own needs. Second, we have a hard time really believing that our prayers for others are effective, especially as the scope of our prayers widens. Do our prayers really affect kings and presidents, public policy and world affairs? Of course they do. It's important to keep in mind, therefore, that God acts in partnership with us. Yes, God's will will be accomplished no matter what, but our prayers mysteriously become part of the equation.
Among Christians, it's commonplace for people to say to each other, "I'll be praying for you." This can be a superficial or a pious comment when we are faced with someone else's needs or problems. We have to say something in reply, after all. So, whenever we say it, we need to mean it. Having been the recipient of other's prayerful concern, I have experienced its power and comfort. Of course, intercession must never be a substitute for other kinds of helping. Offering someone prayer when they also need food, clothes, or a kind visit fails to recognize that we can also be the answer to our own intercessions.
One of the important reasons for intercession for others is that when we are in dire need or suffering we find it hard to pray for ourselves. We are too numb, too filled with doubt, or too exhausted to pray. In those situations, having others pray on our behalf is like having them help us carry the load of pain and suffering. By interceding, we come alongside others; we plead with the Lord for those we love and for those we don't even know.
Many people maintain a prayer list, reminding themselves of those for whom they have promised to pray, or those who need their prayers. Another benefit of this kind of list is that it also can remind us of the many ways in which our prayers are answered. So, intercession issues into thanksgiving and gives glory to God.
This kind of prayerful solidarity links us with the love of God, who knows all human needs, and whose heart goes out to all who struggle. And it links us with God's ultimate purpose, which is his kingdom of love, joy, and peace. It also links us to others. It's hard to hate or ignore someone we are sincerely praying for.
Do your prayers strike a balance between concerns for self and for others?
How have you experienced the intercession of others?
What is your greatest struggle in interceding for others?
As always, this is a great opportunity to share your own prayer habits, and help your group establish a solid practice of prayer.
You may want to experiment with intercession in the group by inviting them to pray for each other after they have shared concerns and needs.
Before the session, gather current newspapers from your local community, or a selection of news magazines. Make sure you have enough so that each person in your group has one or two to use. You may also want to consider allowing your young teens to use their tablets or smartphones to connect to news sites like Google News.
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