I really enjoy praying for others. I find it amazing how God partners with human beings to accomplish his plans for the world. However, I know that prayer often feels like a challenge for most of us. We sometimes stumble at the many valid theological questions surrounding prayer: why pray if God already knows all things? Why pray if God already has a plan he intends to accomplish? Why pray if God might leave our prayers unanswered? But prayer is so powerful. It is, in fact, a precious gift that God has given to humanity. While there is so much that can be said about prayer in general, I want to focus on the topic of intercession. Then, I am going to share five compelling reasons why you should start praying for others today.
What is intercessory prayer?
Intercessory prayer (or intercession) is simply the act of praying on behalf of others. Many of us have been taught to mostly pray for ourselves and our families. We know how to thank God for the gifts he has given us and we know how to present our needs before him. However, I think that Christians often make intercession secondary to those things. We don’t sit and intentionally pray for others as often as we should. But, we have been called to be agents of change in our communities and what better way to do that than to reach out to God on behalf of the people in the world?
Why don’t we intercede for others as often as we should?
We don’t think our prayers are significant
I can’t speak for you but I do suspect that many of us share similar reasons for neglecting intercession. Personally, when I fail to intercede on behalf of others it is because I have bought into the lie that my prayers are not significant enough to cause actual change. Perhaps you have felt this way too. I’m just one person, how can my prayers impact a community? Well, first of all, you’re not just one person. You are a member of the body of Christ. There are hundreds of thousands of people praying along with you. Secondly, your prayers are significant when they are genuine and pure before God.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:16 NIV
Here James is simply saying that a righteous person’s prayer does bring change. Notice that he did not say “the prayer of a person who has been saved for ten years” or “the prayer of a person who is very spiritual.” According to James, righteousness leads to effective prayer. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Do you have a genuine heart? Do you strive to live a life that pleases God? Do you repent quickly when you fall short? Congratulations, you are a righteous person. This means that you can intercede on behalf of others.
God does not only listen to loud, bold, and eloquent prayers. He hears you even when you don’t even know what to say. He has the words when you have none. Just begin praying, however you feel comfortable, and believe that he hears you.
We’ve been praying for a really long time and nothing seems to be happening
Sometimes we fail to intercede because we feel like nothing is happening. Remember, everything takes time. You may not see the fruit of your prayers but that does not mean that the seeds you have planted aren’t effective. They are. God moves in his own time according to his own will. Keep praying fervently even if you don’t see the change you have been praying for.
We don’t think intercession is our duty
“Leave intercession for the prayer warriors.“
Do you know what the purpose of the priests was in the Old Testament? They were the ones who interceded behalf of the Israelites. Do you know what the New Testament says about Jesus followers?
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV
We are a holy priesthood. This means that we have the privilege and duty to intercede before God on behalf of the world. This is not just a job for so-called prayer warriors. Yes, it’s true that some people are especially gifted at intercession. Honestly, I think that’s simply because they do it regularly and their hearts are in tune with the Father’s. They are not concerned with how eloquently they pray. Instead, they are moved with passion about the state of the world and their local communities. So, they intercede fervently.
Maybe no one has told you this before. But intercession is not just a nice thing to do. It is our duty.
Related: How to Actively Pursue God
We don’t always care to intercede for others
We don’t always care as often as we should. Sometimes we are too concerned with our own needs and desires to think about the people who are hurting around the world. The state of the world doesn’t always seem to impact us so we live complacently, without thinking about the people who are suffering. May God stir up compassion in our hearts for the people in our communities who desperately need our prayers.
5 Compelling Reasons to Start Praying for Others Today
Now that you understand some of the reasons why we don’t intercede as often as we should, let’s look at some compelling reasons to intercede and pray for others.
1. God hears our prayers
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.1 Peter 3:12 ESV
I want you to take a moment and really think about this. The God of the entire universe hears our prayers. Prayer is not merely speaking empty words out loud hoping that something happens. Prayer is communication with a God who cares. When tragedy strikes and we get down on our needs and ask God for help, he hears and he moves on our behalf. There is nothing too big or too small to pray about. He hears every word.
2. God works with human beings to accomplish his will on earth
Yes, God is sovereign. But he works with human freedom. Believers have the Spirit of God living within them and the Spirit leads us to pray for God’s will. As we pray, he acts on behalf of our prayers to accomplish his will. What does this mean? It means that your prayers matter to God. Maybe you’re thinking: well he’s sovereign, why does he need me to pray? You’re right, God doesn’t need you to pray but he wants you to. He wants to listen to you as you cry out to him on behalf of the world.
3. Intercession is how we show our neighbors that we love them
You love your friends? Your family? Your local community? Your country? The world? Pray for them. Pray without them having to ask you. Pray for their well-being. Pray that their relationship with God grows stronger. Pray that God’s will is done in their lives. Pray for their safety. Pray for your unbelieving friends that they may come to know the Lord. We demonstrate how much we love our neighbors when we willingly choose to pray fervently on their behalf.
On another note, intercession is how we love our enemies. Remember Jesus’ words? Pray for your enemies and those who persecute you. Yes, we are called to love the most vile and evil sinner because Jesus died for us when we were vile sinners ourselves.
4. Transformation happens when we intercede
Next, people and societies are transformed when we intercede. I want to say it again: your prayers matter. They are significant. God hears you. You may be praying for months or even years and it seems like nothing is happening. Keep praying. You can’t see it but your prayers are working. Transformation truly does happen when we intercede.
5. Intercession changes our hearts
Last but not least, intercession changes our hearts. Praying for others helps us to be more compassionate. If you want your heart to be more in tune with the Father’s heart, start praying for others.
I hope this article was helpful for you. Don’t be intimidated by intercessory prayer. I promise you, it’s not scary at all. Simply begin by reaching out to God on behalf of your community. Pick a cause and pray daily until something changes. If you’re not sure where to get started, click here to download a list of causes in the world you can begin praying for today.