November 23, 2017

How to Pray for Others (part 1)

One of the privileges of a Christian is praying for others. We have the sweet responsibility of bearing each others’ burdens, by carrying those burdens in our prayers, and casting them before the throne of grace with our own tears and passion.

But what exactly are we supposed to be praying for?

Is this what our prayer requests usually look like?

 

Consider the prayers of the apostles that have been recorded for us. Hardly ever do we see them praying for material needs. Sure, there’s occasional supplication made for safety or good health. But the majority of their prayers focus on  spiritual needs. And I think that’s where many of us falter.

Good health, good jobs, safety and security… these are all good things. And they’re all somewhat important things in this world. But they’re not our greatest, most significant needs. In the eternal scheme of things, our physical needs have little value. Consider Paul’s words to the Colossian believers [1:9-10]:

 

“…we have not ceased to pray for you,
asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will
in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work
and increasing in the knowledge of God.” 

 

He prayed not for an easy comfortable life, but that they would live in a manner worthy of their Savior. He prayed not for security or health, but that they would abound in good works and knowledge of God.

Now think about how you usually pray for people. Is it the same as Paul’s prayer? Does it focus on the physical needs, or the spiritual?

Most of us ask for prayer quite frequently. Many of us get asked for prayer just as often. And it’s fine to pray for safety, healing, job security, familial peace, and all those other good things we’d like. After all, God tells us to pray about everything. 

But I think most of us probably need to shift our focus, from being so heavily bent towards physical blessings – to things that will benefit spiritually. We need to pray less for earthly comforts, and more for eternal rewards. {<– tweet this!}

So how might that look in our everyday prayer time? Perhaps…

  • less for good sleep or energy, and more for God’s strength to be made perfect through physical weakness.
  • less for reprieve from pain, and more for God’s purposes to be accomplished through the pain.
  • less for healing, and more for God to be glorified and praised through sickness.
  • less for financial stability, and more for steadfast faith in God’s perfect timing and provision.
  • less for safety in traveling, and more for opportunities to witness and encourage others along the journey.
  • less for a good work environment, and more for a strong testimony in front of coworkers and supervisors.
  • less for blessings, and more for seeing the blessings we already have.

Take a look sometime at the prayers offered by the apostle Paul. Many of the churches he wrote to were suffering great physical need. Many of them were facing persecution for their faith. Many of them had great numbers of poor, lacking food or clothing or even places to live.

But though he probably prayed about their physical needs, that’s not what he chose to mention in his epistles.

He mentioned instead prayers for strength, endurance, patience, joy, thanksgiving…

What would happen if we started praying like that for each other? Can you imagine the changes that would take place? Can you imagine the furtherance of the gospel, and the edification of the body of Christ?

 

“May you be strengthened with all power,
according to his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience with joy,
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you
to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Colossians 1:11-12

 

QUESTION for YOU: How do you usually pray for others? Do you focus on the physical needs, or the spiritual? What specific steps could you take to changing your focus from temporary to eternal? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow – and an interesting (but doable) challenge!

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Comments

  1. Elizabeth, I love the way you started this post, because it really is a privilege to carry each other’s burdens though the very sound of it seems heavy…hard. And I love that you bring up the spiritual needs, because the spiritual effects the physical, and somehow we can get that flipped in our minds. And you’re not extreme…obviously, we can pray for the physical 🙂 Very balanced and true post. I always enjoy reading over here! Blessings, friend!

  2. Good morning Elizabeth…I so appreciated your thoughts on prayer. I have been struggling with this very issue, as the prayer requests roll in faster than I know how to handle them, and for people I don’t know, and for things i think…really? You want prayer for …that?? I shared this link with someone else too. Keep the thoughts coming- you are a blessing!

  3. This is such a helpful post. And it’s eye-opening to me at what a habit I’ve gotten into of only praying for others physical needs, and rarely if ever for their spiritual ones. Thank you for the reminder!

  4. This is why it is so important to pray actual Scripture–a discipline I do not practice nearly enough. Thanks for linking up with WIP!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Sadly, we too often neglect the ministry of praying for others. […]

  2. […] does that mean praying for our own needs, and praising God through prayer, but it also includes praying for others. In other words, practicing […]

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