Why are we told to pray for others?
We find many Scriptures in the Bible encouraging us to pray for others. But why? Why should a Christian spend time in praying for others, especially for those in the faith? Is there a benefit for doing this? What is God’s purpose in having us pray for each other?
One of the trademarks of a Christian is an attitude of outgoing concern for others. Putting others ahead of one’s self shows absolute love and kindness which is a key trait of one who calls him- or herself a Christian. Please note 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Romans 12:10; Mark 12:31 and 1 Peter 3:8. All these Scriptures point out the fact that true love does not only think about oneself, but also about others. It is ALWAYS looking out for the betterment of others and their situations. Philippians 2:3-4 iterates: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
When we start taking on this approach, we quickly see that one of the major ways to do this is through praying for others. Maybe they include prayers for strength, or wisdom, or for help in health-related matters. We all have the opportunities to pray these types of prayers for others. This is entirely backed up by God’s Holy Scriptures.
Paul’s entire outlook throughout his ministry was to constantly be praying for those whom he shepherded. He took great care of the people that God entrusted to him. But in turn, he entrusted their well-being and their continuance in the faith to God through prayer.
We can notice this in the next few quoted Scriptures.
- Ephesians 6:18-20 in the New International Version: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
- Romans 10:1: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”
- Colossians 1:9: “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding…”
- 1 Timothy 2:1-7: “Therefore I exhort (encourage) first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority (a prominent place), that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
Paul was concerned that we all pray for each other with prayers full of outgoing concern and love in each situation that we all find ourselves in throughout our lives. And he exemplified this. But notice, this is not just where we are to leave off in our prayers. We can pray and should pray for outcomes in government—not for this world as this world is Satan’s world, nor for the kingdoms and nations that rule–but rather we are to pray that we can have peace and safety and that we find favor in the eyes of people who rule this world, as well as praying for the unhindered fulfillment of the Work which God has commissioned us to do. Also realizing though that our allegiance is to God, first and foremost, and that we cannot go against His Will, even if people who rule in this world command us to do otherwise. Rather, we need to stand up for what is right and be proper ambassadors as Paul rightly showed himself to be.
Continuing on in reading what Paul wrote in his letters to many churches as to how he kept them in his prayers. We read how explicit he was in telling them what it was that he was praying about for them. In Philippians 1:3-10 we read: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
What would have been the effect if Paul had not prayed for the churches in this way? His prayers had to have had effect. Both from the standpoint of God listening and helping, but also from the standpoint of the people to whom the letters were written and hearing those words and knowing that he was praying for them.
In James 5:16 we read: “Confess your trespasses (your personal sins which you have committed towards other members) to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent (supplication) prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Our prayers can be effective, both for ourselves and for others, if we are righteous. If we are NOT righteous in our approach, then God will not hear. In chapter 1 of James, we see many admonitions in this regard. There is no end to how we can and should live righteously. If we find it hard to think in this way, then we are not focused enough on God, and not studying enough. God is curious to see what we will do. He is anxious to see our character growth. But this only comes through intensive moments of opportunity for growth. This comes through having convictions (especially biblically based ones and sticking to those).
Continuing in verses 16-17 of James 5: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”
Do we consider our prayers to be THAT powerful? If not, WHY not? When we pray, we should be expecting the things we pray about to be done. John 14:13-14 shows Christ’s words for us today: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
We need to realize that our prayers hold serious weight with God. We have to believe this. And we need to learn to pray in all situations.
Matthew 5:44 tells us: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
This does not mean, of course, that we should pray for the welfare of our enemies who curse, hate, spitefully use and persecute us and, more importantly, God. Rather, our prayers to God should contain a plea that they would understand and repent of the wickedness of their ways, so that they can be freed from being Satan’s captives. This might even include a plea to God for His powerful and dramatic intervention in their lives to wake them up or to prevent them from causing further harm to others. Sometimes, God even tells us to cease praying for His enemies—especially for those who once knew the Truth and fell away, as God would not hear our prayers. And in general, we read that even Christ did not pray for the people of this world, while He did and does pray for those whom He called out of this world.
In John 17:8-9, we read: “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”
Christ’s prayer to the Father in John 17, verses 6-26, was dedicated to the men and women who were alive at that time and for ALL who would be called to become true Christians. His care and concern was for His people whom God has chosen and would choose through the centuries. His desire was for us to become one as He and the Father are one. This is not easily accomplished. It takes much focus on God’s Word, prayer and the action.
Paul asks us in the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians to stir up spiritual gifts for the sake of unity. Each member is to be used by God in the capacity that is granted to them. In verse 25, Paul talks about each member having the “same care for one another.”
When we focus our attention on others and shift from being self-centered to caring for others in whatever capacity that may be, we begin to experience a change of our mindset. Let us notice the growth of the early Church because of what God was accomplishing, while He was specifically looking at their attitude. In Acts 2:40-47, it says that the new church members continued “steadfastly” in prayers. They were not only praying for their own lives and God’s help for problems they were encountering, but they were also praying for each other. They were praying for the Work. They were praying for those who were leading them. And God was pleased with this attitude and this approach.
Those who do NOT pray for the welfare and benefit of other Church members exhibit attitudes of selfishness. While not caring for others, they may rather talk about them in negative ways, gossip and slander them and show a general disregard for them. This would also apply to people in the world who are maligned and talked about incorrectly. God tells us to stay away from these kinds of people who slander and gossip. If we were to find that we had this type of attitude, it would be time to repent and to draw close to God. Paul’s warning for us in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (Amplified Bible) is as follows: “But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them.” This is NOT the type of people that we want to be a part of in any way, nor do we want to be these types of people ourselves.
When we pray, we should always know how powerful our prayers for each other can be, and how much we should be coming before God with all sincerity and belief that He is there waiting. We are aware of the state of the world, and we should understand that our prayers for the Work and those who perform the Work are important as well. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 says: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.”
Righteous and appropriate prayers for others are extremely important, and they should be a daily part of our prayer life.
Lead Writer: Kalon Mitchell