Time is valuable. And sharing your time is one of the more valuable gifts you can give.
But even more valuable is sharing your time in prayer for that person. To spend time earnestly interceding for someone (whether they know it or not) is one of the greatest ways to demonstrate love for another: to “spend and be spent” for the sake of another. It is costly: it requires time and energy and forethought. It is sacrificial: we spend time praying for others instead of praying for ourselves.
And it is worth doing — but like anything else worth doing, it is worth doing well.
Here’s some suggestions to pray well for others:
1. Do it. Don’t just talk about it, or listen to others talk about it; actually do it – especially if you’ve promised to do it. Has a friend asked you to pray for a difficult situation? Stop reading for a moment, and pray for them. Have you agreed to a church covenant that urges each member to pray for one another? Purpose in your heart to start doing it… today.
2. Do it regularly. Set a time and place, and meet God at that time and place every day. Decide beforehand to not make excuses: just practice it until it becomes a daily habit. Be consistent.
3. Do it systematically. Grab your church’s directory, church’s missionary list, or your own prayer list, and make a plan to work through it systematically. You don’t have to pray for every single person everyday — unless God lays it on your heart to do so. The important thing is to establish a pattern of working through the lists in an orderly and consistent way.
4. Do it believingly. Believe that God honors prayer. Believe that He works in response to prayer. Believe that He is glorified when we pray, and therefore pray fervently that He will do what you request.
5. Do it fervently. If you truly believe that God will answer your prayers for another, then don’t do it half-heartedly! Be earnest. Be confident in your access to His throne, and in His promise to hear you. Be bold in your prayers for others.
6. Do it thoughtfully. In other words, not simply “rote” praying or reading through a list. Not, God bless all the missionaries — but praying for God to bless a specific missionary according to his needs and particular location, which differs from those of other missionaries. Not, God bless all these people whose names begin with the letter “A” — but praying for God to help a specific individual with specific needs that they have (note: this requires actually knowing what’s going on with people!).
7. Do it spiritually. This doesn’t mean you don’t pray for material needs. It does mean that you connect those temporal needs to eternal needs; it means linking those expressed needs with unexpressed needs. Is someone in your church struggling financially? Pray that God would provide for them, but also that they would have assurance that God sees them and cares for them. Is someone dealing with health issues? Pray for strength and healing, but also that they would understand God’s everlasting strength and experience His all-sufficient grace.
Intercession is truly an effective means of helping others. It is a great privilege. Only genuine believers can pray for others, because only believers’ prayers will be honored and heard by God. But it is also a great labor. It requires discipline, hard work, and commitment. We must plan for it, if we are going to do it regularly.
So start planning — and get busy praying!