I practice regular and systematic intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is when you pray for others – you intercede with God on their behalf. I think half of the texts and e-mails I send include the words, “I’m praying for you.” And I pray for people whether they want me to or not. I don’t ask their permission. My prayer list is long and one of my favorite things is dating and crossing off an answered prayer. I love to look back at past prayer journals to see all the prayers that God has answered.
Sometimes it seems like God isn’t listening. I especially get impatient when I want healing for a person and God seems to have something else in mind. In some ways I treat intercessory prayer as a magic wand that I can wave and God will change circumstances – or people – or minds. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything always went the way I think it should?
Well, probably not. I have a very limited understanding and outlook on things, compared with the way God sees things. So I always add, as Jesus taught us, “Thy will be done.” Some people see this as a cop-out. But I see it as an opportunity to allow my will and my desires for another person or situation to come into line with God’s will.
Because, ultimately, intercessory prayer isn’t so much about changing God’s mind as it is about changing our minds and our actions. There are so many times when I have prayed for someone and God asks me, “What are YOU doing about it?” In intercessory prayer, you seldom end up where you started. My prayer journal reflects this as I narrow or expand my prayers for a particular person. I may start off praying for physical healing and end up praying that the person will see the blessings in today. With each person I ask God how I can demonstrate God’s love to them or share my joy in Christ.
In some ways, praying for others is also about praying for myself: that I might love God more and see his will more clearly in my life. Praying that I might accept his will even when it seems wrong to me. Praying that those that I pray for will come to see God’s love clearly in their lives.
Prayer can be our most important work. Intercessory prayer changes things: people, circumstances. But almost as important, praying for others changes me.