Have you ever had someone say to you: “I’ll pray for you!” What were your thoughts when they said that? When I have offered to pray for a person, sometimes I will get a sigh of relief and appreciation, glad that I would do them the favor of praying for them. Sometimes I’ve gotten a look of horror, as if I’d just offered to baptize them in theFishHookRiver. This reaction comes from a person who thinks of prayer, either as a long, drawn out sermon or as an indication that there is a deficiency that needs to be addressed. The former need not be, although I have heard long prayers in my lifetime, but the latter is definitely true for everyone. We are all in need of prayer, as the old spiritual goes: “It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer!”
Prayer is asking God for things that are needed. SinceJames1:19says that every good thing comes from God the Father, we should understand that if we are going to have the things we need, we must ask the Father for them. I have found that the closer we get to the Lord, the more we understand how many needs we actually have. This is not only true for ourselves, but especially true for those around us. Many times in the Bible we see examples of people praying for others. This is called “intercessory prayer”: praying for the needs, spiritual and physical of other people. Let me share a few things intercessory prayer I’ve learned out of John 17.
First, intercessory prayer is a sense of responsibility. Jesus said inJohn 17:9: “I pray for them… which thou hast given me.” Jesus prayed for His disciples because He felt a distinct responsibility for them. When God puts another person in a Christian’s life, He does so that the Christian might be there to help. A Christian should then pray for others, because they have been given the responsibility to do so.
Second, intercessory prayer is a request for well-being. Notice Jesus prayed for His disciples that God would keep them (11,15) and sanctify them (17), that they would be unified (20-21), and that they would be with Jesus when they left this life (24). Jesus was interested in their well-being, and one of the best ways you can care for someone is to pray for them. Often we pray for physical needs, but we need to also pray for spiritual needs.
Third, intercessory prayer is a relationship with the giver. Notice how many times Jesus prays for His disciples to be as He is with God- to share in the same relationship. This is the very best thing for which we can pray for others- that they would know and come to know God in a better way. God sends many opportunities to know Him, such as cancer, heartache, and financial troubles. These opportunities are often wasted in bitterness and self-focus, instead of being Christ-centered. When we understand that God is always seeking a relationship with us, we can pray for others, that they would know Him in whatever circumstances they face.
Intercessory prayer is not one taken lightly. It is spiritual warfare, and an important part of what it means to be a Christian, as light and salt, as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.