Podcast listener named Nathan writes in to ask about prayer. “Pastor John, I’d like to see 2016 become a revival in my prayer life. I want to be honest when I tell people I pray for them. I’ve read through many theologies of prayer, but I would love to hear any practical tips or methods for praying for other people, specifically for a spouse, children, the lost, leadership, friends, infirm, etc. Do you have any suggestions to refresh my prayer life?”
It may seem too obvious to be mentioned, but in my experience there is real motivating power to see my obvious duties stated with simple clarity in the very words of Scripture themselves—instead of just kind of vaguely knowing that I have a duty—to actually see what the Bible says. So let’s start there to help Nathan and ourselves, because all of us share his desire probably.
The Bible commends what Nathan is longing for; namely, regular prayer for other people. Specifically, it does so with explicit commands and by numerous examples. For example, the command of James 5:16: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” So Nathan should take heart that his desire is exactly in line with what God wants him to do. Pray. Pray for other people. Pray for one another.
The “one another” in that text implies that the people you are connected with are people you should pray for—not only them, but for sure them. Pray for them. And to do so is to please God. It is what he tells us to do: To do it pleases him. And that should just give us a warm, sweet, comforting sense that when we get on our knees and intercede for somebody, God is smiling upon us, because we are doing what he said to do.
And then there are the examples of Scripture, not just the commands that tell us what to do, but the examples of Scripture where, for example, Paul is praying for his kinsmen. Romans 10:1: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Wow. I can’t tell you how many times that text has encouraged me to see Paul earnestly interceding with his Father for the people he loves to be saved.
So just to hear those words in Scripture can be very encouraging and motivating—empowering for us to press on. He is praying for unbelievers there, but he also prays for believers in Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 3 and Colossians 1 and Philippians 1, those great prayers of Paul. Wow. I would just encourage Nathan and all of us: Meditate long and pray through the prayers of Paul. The Philippians 1 example goes like this: “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9–10).