"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions and with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." -- Ephesians 6:18
Intercessory prayer (praying for others) is a spiritual discipline that very few possess, but it is one that we all need to exercise consistently. Although I have been a Christian for a number of years, praying was not something I understood or was good at for a number of years. As I matured in my understanding, however, and realized that prayer was simply an ongoing conversation with God, I found myself praying more. In Scripture, we are commanded to "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Is it possible to even do that?
There is such a great need for intercessory prayer among the people of God. Whether for personal healing or the healing of loved ones, financial provision, or simply strength to get through the day, our lives are made better when we are carried on the prayers of those who know and love us. And we possess the power to bless others by praying for them.
There are three things that have truly revolutionized my prayer life. The first is realizing that Jesus himself prays for me. Toward the end of his life as Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father, he prayed not only for the believers he would be leaving to carry on his work, but also for those who have not yet believed. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:20-21).
The second is knowing that even when I don't know how to pray or what to pray for, the Holy Spirit does. "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 with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" (Romans 8:26-27).
The third thing that has revolutionized my prayer life is the practice of journaling, or "praying through my pen." Over the past thirty-five years, my journals have evolved from the simple diary entries of a teenage girl to sometimes lengthy prayers to the God I love and serve. Journaling keeps me focused and reduces the tendency for my mind to wander, as often happens when we pray. When I sit down to pray and begin writing, I write as though I am communicating with a dear friend. Certainly Jesus is the dearest friend of all. Before I know it, I find that I have prayed for an hour or more!
If you struggle with intercessory prayer, keep in mind that we all need the prayer covering of the saints and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying for and with you, even at times when you can't find the words. Try keeping a prayer journal, not only to keep you focused in prayer but to record God's answers to your prayers.
It has been said that prayer changes things. Be alert to the needs of those around you today and offer up a quick prayer in their behalf. Before long, not only will you see God working in their lives, but you will realize that your own life has changed for the better!