When you think about your prayer life, how often do you pray for other people? It can be easy to forget to pray for others in the hustle and bustle of life or pray for our own needs more than the needs of others. While it isn't wrong to pray for ourselves and our needs, God has gifted us with the ability to intercede for others.
Intercession is the act of praying on behalf of another person or group of people. The apostle Paul would often include intercessory prayer in his letters (Colossians 1:9, Philippians 1:3–4). But Paul makes it clear how intercession is not just for church leaders or seasoned Christians–intercession is for every believer. He writes in 1 Timothy 2:1, "First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone." In Ephesians 6:18, he says, "Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints."
But Jesus Himself also modeled intercession in His High Priestly prayer in John 17. And on the night of His arrest, Jesus spent time praying fervently on behalf of those in His care and those who would come to believe in Him. Even to this day, Jesus intercedes on behalf of His people (Hebrews 7:25). As believers, we get to partner with our ultimate intercessor, Jesus, by praying on behalf of others. But how?
Below are four ways you can partner with Jesus by praying on behalf of others.
Make a list of people to pray for
Take out a piece of paper or journal and begin writing down people that come into your mind. Start small by writing down the people you are closest to, such as your children, spouse, or immediate family. And then start branching out by writing the names of your extended family, friends, and neighbors. Branch out even more by writing the names of coworkers, leaders in your church, and church members. Lastly, add people you may forget to think about during your week, such as unbelievers, missionaries, our people groups.
Familiarize yourself with the needs of others
Take a look at your list and begin asking the people on that list how you can be praying for them. Consider sending them a text or asking them the next time you see them in person. You can also listen well in conversation to glean the needs of others. For example, if someone you know expresses how work is making them stressed, you can pray that God will bring them peace in their job. For the people on your list that you are unable to see or speak to, like missionaries or people groups, you can spend some time researching prayer needs from sites such as imb.org or namb.net. Also, consider joining our Facebook Group where you can pray for others in the Daily Grace Community!
Spend dedicated time praying for people by name and for their needs
Now you have a list of people and their needs. At this point, you may feel a little overwhelmed, but don't feel as if you have to pray for each one of these people and every need all at once. One way to incorporate intercession into your routine is to designate certain times or days to pray for people. For example, you can set certain days of the week to pray for certain people. You can break up your prayer list by praying for those closest to you on Monday, then extended family, friends, and neighbors on Tuesday, and so forth. You can even set reminders on your phone to pray for a certain person or group of people at a designated time of the day. Also, don't forget how impactful it can be to pray for a person as soon as they voice a request. If someone brings up a need, consider praying aloud with them at that moment.
Use resources to prompt your prayers
If you're struggling to articulate your prayers or want some extra guidance with your prayers, you can use one of the Daily Grace's many prayer resources. Our Thirty-One Days of Prayer for Others walks you through thirty-one days of praying for different people and gives you prompts to use as you pray. We also have prayer cards such as Prayers for my Children or Prayers for Marriage you can incorporate into your prayer time. Or consider using one of our journals to record needs and write out your prayers for others.
As you work on establishing a rhythm of intercession, remember that God gives you His grace. There may be days when you forget to pray for others or experience failed opportunities to pray for others, but because of Christ, there is grace for our failures and forgetfulness. Even if we struggle in our intercession, we can rest in God's grace and in the power of the Spirit to keep growing.