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 pray for one another is because prayer really works.
Praying for other people is not just a religious exercise for very devote Christians seeking to check all the boxes on their spiritual to-do-list. According to Scripture, praying for other people is massively important to their success in ministry, life, and walk with God. Certainly God can accomplish his plans for us and others even if we don’t have a prayer team doing intercession on our behalf. But 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.”
- James 5:16-18, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”
- Philippians 1:18-21, “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, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
We Should Pray for Each Other Because Jesus and the Holy Spirit 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). 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 [the disciples]. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. . . .15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. . . .20My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have 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 Holy Spirit intercedes for us too:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
Therefore, if we are filled with the Spirit and we are staying in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), 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 the Spirit’s leading, generally this will play out in a very practical way: What the Spirit does, this person will seek to do.
What grieves the Spirit will grieve you. What delights the Spirit will delight you. What the Holy Spirit cares about, you will care about. Likewise, since the Holy Spirit 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 and pray for those who 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 (Matthew 5:45). 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.
Notice how intertwined Paul’s affections and prayers are for the Philippians. It’s as if his prayers are fueling his affections for them and his affections are also fueling his prayers:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy . . . 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11)
Paul remembers them 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 thus 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:
He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 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.”
When we pray for each other, it glorifies God in many ways. Therefore, may we seek to raise up the full canopy of prayer and intercession for one another. May we pray for others and seek out faithful brothers and sisters who will pray for us.