In the Old Testament, Samuel declares that he would be sinning against the Lord if he fails to pray for the Israelites. (1 Sam. 12:23) The value of praying for others is a familiar Christian call to action, but how can we do so effectively, giving the practice more than cursory lip service?
First of all, we need to develop relationships founded on a deep level of care, vulnerability and trust. Praying for one another will become natural and effective when our relationships are in a safe place. One of the best ways to encourage others to be vulnerable about their needs is to be open about our own. Vulnerability must be reciprocal. Also, our friendships should be based on a secure confidentiality. We should be confident that whatever we share will not be repeated to others, and it will not affect our love for each other.
When these prerequisites have been met, we can offer powerful prayers for each other. Consider these practical guidelines.
Even if we are paying attention to the previous guidelines, I have some personal issues that bother me when I hear people praying for others. You may disagree with me, but it is worth clearing the air.
When we pray for others, does it sound like we are talking to God or to the person(s) we are praying for? If at some point in the prayer we start preaching to the person we are praying for, we should remember we are speaking to God.
Are we using trite, overused phrases like “Bless the hands of the physicians as they operate?” What the Bible calls vain repetitions become prayer clichés that lose their meaning from overuse.
Do we use an “ecclesiastical voice” and King James English? Some people adopt a prayer voice that seems showy and ostentatious, lacking sincerity.
Are our prayers simple and focused? These intercessory prayers can be accomplished is just a few minutes focusing solely on the expressed need. Longer is not necessarily better.
When we pray for others, Christ is not asking us to do something that He has not and is not doing for us. Who is on your prayer list today?
Don McMinn, Ph.D. (with Kimberly Spring)
Executive Director of theiPlace.org
The 11th Commandment: More Insights into the One Anothers of Scripture
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