Dedication of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul: Interceding In Prayer
From the readers Digest we read this- Attending church in Kentucky, we watched an especially verbal and boisterous child being hurried out, slung under his irate father's arm. No one in the congregation so much as raised an eyebrow -- until the child captured everyone's attention by crying out in a charming Southern accent, "Ya'll pray for me now!"
Today I want us to think about the importance of interceding in pray for each other.
The Epistle we read today says, “We give thanks to God always for you all; making a remembrance of you in our prayers without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 1:2)
If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them, and this will lead us to prayer. Intercession is a way of loving others. Prayer is not an obligation, something we have to do. Prayer is an expression of love: because we care about people who need more than we can give, we ask God to work. As Christians, most of us have a general awareness that it is a good thing to pray for other people and to have other people praying for you. But perhaps praying for each other is more than “good,” perhaps it is crucial. So why should we pray for others? What benefits are there to interceding for people? Why is it so important that we pray for each other?
We Should Pray for Others Because Prayer Really Helps People
There are many examples of intercession in the Bible and many reasons the Scriptures give for why we should pray for one another. But perhaps the most obvious reason we should intercede in prayer for one another is because prayer really works. Praying for other people is not just a religious exercise for very devout Catholics seeking to check all the boxes on their spiritual to-do-list.
According to Scripture, praying for other people is extremely important to their success in ministry, life, and walk with God. When we pray for one another, it helps in very practical ways:
2 Corinthians 1:11, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
Philippians 1:18-21, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Colossians 4:3-4, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
We Should Pray for Each Other Because Jesus and the Holy Ghost Intercede for People
A general rule of thumb (not always) when reading the Bible is that anytime Jesus does something, we should try to do it too. John 13:15 says, For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. Jesus is the supreme model of someone who loves others well. Everything Jesus did for other people was rooted in his love for them. Therefore to love like Jesus, we must pray for others like Jesus. One of the best examples of Jesus praying for others can be found in John 17.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them [the disciples] whom thou hast given me: because they are thine. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me...That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:9, 15, 20-21)
Not only do we have examples of Jesus praying for people in the Bible, the Scriptures also make clear that the Spirit intercedes for us too:
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
Therefore, if we are filled with the Ghost and walking in the spirit, we too will intercede for each other and pray for others. When the Spirit of God resides in someone and the person is seeking to be sensitive to the Holy Ghost leading, generally this will play out in a very practical way: What the Spirit does, this person will seek to do.
What grieves the the Holy Ghost will grieve you. What delights the Holy Ghost will delight you. What the Holy Ghost cares about, you will care about. Likewise, since the Holy Ghost clearly intercedes in prayer for people, we who are filled with the spirit should seek to do the same.
We Should Pray for One Another Because It Increases Our Love for Each Other
We should also spend time praying for each other because one of the biggest benefits to intercessory prayer is that it increases our love for another. In Matthew 5:44 Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you ” Certainly we should pray for our enemies because then we are expressing the love of God, which is the type of love that is given despite it not being deserved. But perhaps Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies also because he knows in this act of praying, our hearts will be softened and changed towards them. Here Jesus links prayer and love because they go hand and hand for the Christian. Praying for people not only has impact on their life since you are helping usher in the hand of God when it corresponds to his will, but praying for others also changes your heart towards that person. So we should always pray for each other because prayer creates unity. As we pray for one another, the very act of praying for someone else builds the love in your heart for that person. In prayer you are reminded of your desire for their wellbeing, you are reminded of the struggles they are enduring, and overall you are focusing on the other person (humility) with the hope of benefiting them through your intercession. When you actually see this person, will your heart not have a greater affection towards him or her after you’ve spent time praying for them? Because you spent time praying for this person, you will also have a greater desire to love this individual in practical ways too.
Paul remembers the Philippians in prayer with thanksgiving (Philippians 1:3), he prays for them with a heart full of joy (Philippians 1:4), he holds them in his heart which gives him the right to feel special affection for them like Christ does (Philippians 1:7-8), and Paul’s work of teaching them truth through writing this letter to the Philippians is strengthened through prayer (Philippians 1:10-11). Paul’s ministry, motivation, and passion to serve the Philippians was greatly enhanced through his prayers for them. If he was not praying for them, he would not have been as effective in serving and teaching them. Likewise, we should all pray for each other because we will then be better equipped to served and love one another not only in prayer but in practical ways too.
We Should Pray for Others Because It Brings Glory to God
Lastly, we should pray for one another because this brings glory to God. When we intercede for one another, we are reflecting the caring nature of God and I n this way bringing him glory. And not only are we bringing God glory by reflecting him through prayer, we also are creating a shared partnership in the good God produces through us, thus giving us all a reason to praise God when one of us succeeds in accomplishing his desires for us.
In 2 Corinthians 1:10-11 Paul explains: "Who hath delivered and doth deliver us out of so great dangers: in whom we trust that he will yet also deliver us. You helping withal in prayer for us: that for this gift obtained for us, by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many in our behalf."
When we pray for each other, it glorifies God in many ways. May we pray for others and seek out faithful brothers and sisters who will pray for us.