Perhaps you’ve read what Samuel said to the people of Israel in 1 Samuel 12:23: “… far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” What’s the obvious principle here? That we sin when we neglect to pray for others. This truth has been brought to my mind on many occasions to lead me to extend my prayers beyond myself. But for me, praying for others can often seem forced, routine, and empty.
For example, our church sends out prayer requests given by the congregation through email twice a week. At times, as I read over the prayer needs in those emails my heart lacks the urgency and compassion it needs for my prayers to be more than tossing up words into the wind.
Yesterday, the Lord opened my eyes to a practice that can go along way in inspiring God-honoring, others-focused prayer. Myself and two other elders met with a lady who is pursuing membership at our church in order to hear her testimony and ask her some questions about her relationship with Christ. Although I knew of this women and had seen her at church, I had only just said “hello” to her. People had told me about her, but I had never taken the time to get to know her personally.
As we sat on her couch listening to her story of conversion and the specific ways that Christ had transformed her life, something was happening in my heart: I began to feel appreciation for having her as my sister in Christ, I began to feel sympathy for her as she spoke of the trials in her life, and I began to feel compelled to pray for her.
So what is the grand epiphany that I had that empowers prayer for others? It may seem obvious, but it’s simply the reality that prayer for other people flows more easily out of a heart that knows those people on a personal level. This woman is no longer just a name I’ve heard or a face in the crowd. We talked with her, fellowshipped with her, and praised God with her, and now I have been inspired to pray for her.
So Church, if you want to help cultivate a prayer life that extends beyond your needs to those of others, get to know more people on a more personal level. Pursue them so that you will pray for them.