Summary: Intercessory prayer is the privilege of every believer, to hear requests, believe in faith, and pray an effective prayer for those who need God’s powerful touch.
In my last post, I described the many postures we take in worship, Bible intake, and prayer. In this post, I want to give you some pointers on how to pray for others.
I don’t want to hit American Christians more than anyone else, but we tend to focus on praying for ourselves and have a hard time praying for others. Because we don’t do it as much, we don’t level up in our abilities and skills in intercessory prayer.
We pray for ourselves because we already understand the needs. We don’t find it as easy to ask people their needs or to ask the Holy Spirit what to pray for. Some of the greatest prayer warriors in our history listened to the Spirit tell them what to pray for each person.
We don’t have to act all spiritual about praying for the needs of others. We can ask them what their request is. After all, they know better than anyone. You don’t want to appear to be a spiritual weirdo if you tell people what they need prayed for instead of asking them.
The most spiritual act of praying for others is asking God for the needs they have. We need to learn to pray for others because that is one way the Holy Spirit ministers to others through us. Let’s dive in!
The fancy word for praying for others is intercessory prayer. This ministry of the Church, of saints for other people, can be personal or corporate. We usually think of personal intercessory prayer, but the whole church can pray for individuals who need God to touch them.
We see intercessory prayer modeled throughout the Bible. Whether it’s Old Testament prophets praying for those who come to them, Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray and minister to others, or the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, the Bible makes intercession a top priority.
One reason we have problems with intercessory prayer is that we are inexperienced at prayer. Many surveys of Christians expose how little Christians pray. If we don’t know how to pray for ourselves or pray publicly, how would we know how to pray for others?
Perhaps one excuse we might have is someone else can pray better than us. How many times must we remember that praying for others is not about us? It’s about the Holy Spirit ministering through us. And He does that out of His grace.
Many people feel awkward praying publicly, and how much more would they feel awkward because there’s nowhere to hide in one-on-one private prayer for another person? Don’t forget that this person walked up to you and asked you to pray for them. You weren’t the only option in the room.
So stop thinking about yourself as you pray for others. I focus on their need when I pray for others. That keeps me from wondering what they think. I’m only concerned that God hears my prayer and answers it because of His grace, not my praying ability.
Praying for Others
This isn’t going to sound technical. It’s not. In some ways, praying for others is easier than praying for ourselves. When we pray for ourselves, we think we know our needs until we pray. The Holy Spirit takes over and we find out we don’t know how to pray for ourselves because we don’t know what our needs will be from day to day.
Oh, we know what we want. But that may not be what God wants. The same thing can happen to people when you ask what they want you to pray for. You may be listening to the Holy Spirit while you pray for the person and find He has a different list of prayer needs.
The Holy Spirit knows better than you or the person you pray for what the need may be. It does us no good to bulldoze through the prayer, even though the Holy Spirit has clearly said other needs for the person.
Prayer requests can be obvious. I’m a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Almost every time I go to the altar for prayer, I request physical healing. But not always. As a minister of the gospel, sometimes I pray for clarity to preach and teach what God wants me to, or other issues.
When requests are obvious or repeated over time, you can guess what the person wants you to pray for them. Jesus commands us to be persistent in our prayers (Luke 18:1-8). If you are unsure of the request, simply ask. Even if they look at you as though you are blind, most appreciate you not suspecting you know their need.
Even Jesus asked blind people and others who had obvious sicknesses and disorders what they wanted Him to pray for them for. After receiving the request, it is time to move into simple, faith-filled prayer for God to do what you ask. If there are only two of you, Jesus is still listening and ready to answer the prayer (Matthew 18:20).
Perhaps Scripture comes to mind of how Jesus has healed someone else in a similar condition. Quote those verses as touch points of faith. Be very careful about saying things like, “If it’s Your will…” Scripture has revealed hard of God’s will to us. But other parts of His will we do not know, especially for individuals.
I confess, I’ve had people come and pray for me, for my healing, and pray that. “Oh Lord, you know my brother loves you, that he longs for Your healing touch. So we ask for you to heal if it is Your will.” Do I have a problem with this prayer? No. God uses our prayers to do great things in people’s lives. But, I know that Jesus in the Gospels said it is His will to heal.
We can make mistakes when we pray for others. God’s love, greater knowledge, and greater ability trumps ours. Don’t correct others when they pray for you this way. Humbly and graciously accept they are praying for you. We need more grace in the body of Christ. Do you think God will heal a person who thinks they know better than Him?
When the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray for someone, go to that person and follow the steps in this post. Put your faith into it and pray genuinely and fervently. We should not pray for things we cannot believe God will do. Don’t be surprised when he answers your prayer.
Do not tell God about your faith in your prayer if you don’t have faith for Him to do what you’re asking. God knows your heart. He knows how much faith you have. We cannot trick God into answering our prayers. We shouldn’t try.
If you are not sure, before you pray, ask the person if you may lay your hands on them. Be careful where you lay your hands, especially if it’s a member of the opposite gender. I know, it seems obvious.
But I have cringed when a person has inappropriately “laid their hands on” a member of the opposite gender. I can only pray it was by mistake or just out of a misinformed and badly trained prayer etiquette. Just because a woman tells you she has been diagnosed with breast cancer does not mean you need to touch that area of her body for your prayer for her healing to be effective.
Laying Them before Jesus
Let’s talk about responsibilities in intercessory prayer. Some questions I receive about praying for others make me wonder if people understand their responsibilities and God’s responsibilities in prayer.
You cannot heal, provide a job, give money, or whatever other need you pray for. God answers prayers, not you. This is not your responsibility. And you should not attempt to answer the prayer. Exercise restraint in telling the person God has answered the prayer after you pray.
Your responsibility is to take your brother or sister in Christ before the throne of grace, lay them at Jesus’s feet, and let Him do what He does best. You bring their needs before the Lord. What the Lord does with the request is up to Him.
Another responsibility you have in intercessory prayer is to place your faith behind the request as you give it. Why would God answer a faithless prayer? Don’t challenge the amount of faith the person you are praying for has. This goes against building faith for God to use and bless.
Accusing the person you pray for of not having faith is also not helpful. Remember, this person came to you and asked you to pray for them. Because they asked you to pray for their request, they have faith.
If God does not immediately answer the prayer, this does not mean they didn’t have faith. I always point out to others that when the four friends brought the paralytic to Jesus, Jesus heals the man because of “their faith,” referring to the four friends, not the paralytic. If you need to question if there wasn’t enough faith for that request, look inside before you look around.
God only needs you to be humble, full of faith, and willing to pray. Stay in your own lane and do these things, and you will become an awesome intercessory prayer warrior. People will want you to pray for them because you know how to be used by God in prayer.
If God Doesn’t “Answer” Their Requests
All too often we get in our own head as we are praying other people’s requests and wonder what happens if God doesn’t answer our prayer. Why allow doubt to fill your heart? God asks us to have faith when we pray.
When I pray for others, I want God to answer their prayer in powerful ways that bring glory to His name. This is an about me, my failures as in intercessory prayer warrior, or if that person has enough faith to see this happen.
God can answer the prayer without faith. Perhaps He will answer it anyway, so others have faith when they hear what He has done. It is up to God if He does what you are asking in the way you expect, and in the time you expect. I think God enjoys doing things unconventionally.
If God doesn’t answer the prayer right away or in your presence, don’t ask questions about your ability to pray for others. Don’t question your faith. And don’t refuse to pray for others because you don’t think you can do it. Prayers are not meant to be psycho analyzed.
Don’t ask questions like, “Did I fail in my prayer?” You are not responsible to fulfill the request. You have been called on to pray for another person. God only requires that you be faithful to minister to others through intercessory prayer.
When God calls on you by sending one of his beloved children for you to pray for, be faithful in your calling. Be genuine in your prayer, genuine in your faith, and have love and compassion for the person who has asked you to pray for them.
If you do these things, whether God does what you expect, you know you have done what you are asked. Your faithfulness pleases God. Your willingness to trust in faith with that person for their request fulfills His ministry in you.
It’s time to reach out when you are called on to pray for another person to do it. Get up, ask the Lord for His help, go to that person, follow the steps in this post, and follow through. Be faithful, and never turn down a request for prayer.
Now that we have talked about praying for others, I want to spend some time on how to be genuine in your prayers, whether they are for others or yourself.