If you have ever been asked by someone if they could count on you to pray for them, you know what is like to feel the sudden rush of anxiety that your commitment to pray brings. You worry if you will pray well, frequently enough, and even if you will remember to pray at all! You probably are like most of us - you hurriedly shoot off a prayer (just in case you forget later), say you'll pray for them, and then you write it down in hopes you won't forget! We have prayer lists for this very reason - to jog our memories about the needs of those around us. One thing is certain - people need prayer and they are counting on those of us who pray to do so on their behalf. Some people don't even know we are praying for them - like our government officials and our protectors like firefighters and police officers. Others count on those prayers each and everyday to keep them safe - knowing someone is praying for them! We'd do well to remember our commission to pray for each other - God uses those prayers as "avenues" of blessing and protection over their lives!
First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God. This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior. (I Timothy 2:1-3 CEV)
Paul might be speaking to Timothy directly in this passage, but it applies to each of us. Pray for everyone - not just the select few who make it into our "inner circle". I have acquainted myself with a few online groups in one of the social media venues which are other believers. There are ample occasions where others I don't even know personally simply post they are in the midst of a struggle, needing God's wisdom or immediate interventions. When they post these types of "pleas", they aren't doing so to have them overlooked, but are counting on their fellow believers to come alongside to lift them up before the throne of grace. Some of them will move you to pray - others will move me - but in turn, their needs are lifted.
Three things we are asked to do as we pray for each other:
1. Ask God to help them - we may not fully understand the help someone needs, but God does. In simply bringing their need before God and asking him to intervene in the way he does, we are doing what he asks. A prayer request is really a plea for help - someone is reaching out, admitting they cannot do things on their own, and counting on God to intervene on their behalf. To simply ask God to do what he does best is what we are instructed to do!
2. Ask God to bless them - we often ask God to intervene, but do we ask God to go beyond what will bring the immediate "answer" or "fix" to their circumstances and to "bless" those we lift up in ways that are beyond what their immediate need might be? I think God challenges us to ask him to go "beyond" the immediate need and to "flood" their lives with his presence, grace, and blessing in such a way they know he has them in his care and protection.
3. Remind God how thankful you are for them - we may not even know them, but when someone reaches out for prayer, they are doing so because they trust God to intervene - they are fellow humans, struggling in much the same manner as we do. In considering this, we might just find some comfort in knowing neither of us is in this alone - we have each other, and we have God. We never walk alone - for this we are to be grateful and grace-full!
If we are to be honest, there are times we'd like to ask someone to pray for us, but we are embarrassed by the "nature" of our prayer request. Maybe we have a struggle within which is a little embarrassing to admit - such as a habit we definitely need to break. Perhaps we have been dealing with overwhelming thoughts for a long period of time, dragging us lower and lower as they exercise their control over our emotions. Or maybe we are just overcome with anxiety because we don't have everything figured out on our own. Regardless of the "reason" we need prayer - God provides those who will lift us up in prayer if we will ask. Guess what? Even when we don't ask, there are probably people praying for us! They do so because of this commission to pray for one another!
There is something encouraging when another lifts our needs in prayer - it is like they connect with us for just a moment or two - in ways we might not even realize. Then, in a moment in time, this connection is interwoven into the connection with the divine - and this very connection of the three of us - you, me, and God - brings about hope, peace, and clarity. Maybe this is why God asks us to pray for each other - because he knows the connection is sometimes not easy when we are in the midst of the muddle. Just sayin!