As we pray for others, there are a number of important reminders the Bible gives us. These are some of the things we can miss if we are not attentive and sensitive to God’s direction as we pray. Here are five things I find helpful to remember. Each of these helps me keep my prayer life on track.
- Pray for people in places of authority. God has put people in places of authority and we are called to pray for them. Governmental leaders, law enforcement personnel, civic servants, and others in roles of influence should be covered with the prayers of God’s people (1 Tim. 2:2). We can ask for wisdom and protection, for God’s hand on their life and family, and for the presence of Jesus to be revealed to them. We don’t have to agree with someone to pray for them. Our prayers cross all boundaries to bring God into all situations.
- Cry out to God for those who are far from Jesus. Our Savior called us to pray to the God of the harvest and ask him to send us out with the message and love of Jesus (Matt. 9:35–38). In the book of Acts, the prayers of God’s people preceded the revival of Pentecost (chaps. 1–2). It is natural for most of us to pray for other believers. We should also be praying with fervor and consistency for the people in our life who have not yet discovered that God loves them and that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough to wash them clean of sin and begin a new life.
- Intercede for all of God’s people. We not only pray for the Christians close to us but for all of God’s people (Eph. 6:18). Many churches pray for needs in their congregation. At Shoreline Community Church, where my husband and I serve on staff, we have a weekly practice. We pray for other local congregations. We actually call the other Christian churches and ask, “What can we pray for you in our weekend services?” Each Sunday, as a congregation, we pray for one church in our community, for their lead pastor by name, and for specific needs and challenges they are facing. We are part of one body of Christ and believe praying for each other (as churches) is very important.
- Lift up the people who see themselves as your enemy. Jesus called us to pray, even for those who treat us badly and persecute us (Matt. 5:44). If you know what the early church would face under Roman persecution in the coming years, this exhortation would shock you. If first-century Christians could pray for those who were ravaging the church, destroying Christian communities, and martyring fellow believers, we can certainly pray for those who are hostile to us and our faith.
- Pray for God’s will to be done. When Jesus taught his followers how to pray, he told us to pray for his kingdom, not our own personal empires, to come. He directed us to pray, not for the fulfillment of our personal whims, but for his will to be done (Matt. 6:10). In all of our prayers for ourselves, for Christian friends, for nonbelievers, for governing authorities, and even for enemies, we are to pray for God’s will to be done.
If we can pray in God’s will, then we can pray in the name of Jesus. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we can have confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers.
Sherry Harney serves as the leadership development director at Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, California. She is also the cofounder of Organic Outreach International. Her writing and speaking focuses on prayer, spiritual formation, leadership, and organic outreach.
Excerpts from Praying with Eyes Wide Open: A Life-Changing Way to Talk with God by Sherry Harney with Kevin G. Harney. Used by permission of the publisher, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.