Praying for One Another
In certain respects, praying for one another is the simplest task a Christian can carry out as part of the church. In prayer, great results come from little input. Just look at the publican who prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” as opposed to the grand prayer of the Pharisee. The publican received the great reward of eternal justification while the Pharisee’s reward began to diminish into oblivion upon the completion of his prayer. It does not take much effort or time to pray effectively.
It seems as though when Christians pray for one another, they are not satisfied with the ease of prayer taught by Christ. They may take the route of the Pharisee using many words without saying much, or they may take a therapeutic approach. I have found the therapeutic approach to be most popular in our culture today. It is only concerned with bringing ease and comfort to a person or situation, and when it is applied to prayer, the one praying easily becomes impatient with God because He does not always answer in the way they wish. The ease they wish for is not the ease which God desires most to grant; for theirs is concerned about earthly cares while God is concerned most about eternal ease.
The point I am making has often been expressed this way: if you wish to find out what a person fundamentally believes, listen to them pray. It could very well go without saying that the reason we pray determines how we pray, yet it is an important point to consider. When we think of how we pray for one another, we must consider why we pray for them.
Our tendency in prayer for one another is to pray for their immediate well-being. And it is true, we are quick to pray that the earthly lives of those around us would be filled with ease and goodness. Of course, it is encouraging to know that others care, but this sort of care proves superficial in the grand scheme of things.
As a Sunday school teacher of children, and a Youth Leader of young teens, I often have to smile at the simple faith of the students’ prayers. However, most of them are still quite immature in the faith and what they pray for simply displays it. They are concerned much about this life and how it will go with them throughout the day, but little concern is shown for how it will go with them in the next life. Such is understandable because of their lack of maturity in the faith, but what does that say about those who are perceived to be mature yet pray in the same manner?
Throughout the New Testament, we are often given models of prayer. Paul, especially, is one who frequently inserts prayer into his letters. For instance, his prayer at the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians:
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:16-18)
Again, he prays for them that they “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19). An obvious theme begins to appear when we see similar prayers for the Colossians (Col. 1:9-10; 2:2-3) and the Philippians (Phil. 1:9-10).
Paul is most concerned about his fellow believer’s eternal good. He does not pray for earthly comforts, nor does he wish them to pray that for him. Rather, despite what comes in this life, Paul is most concerned with knowing Christ.
How do you pray for others? Maybe the better question is, why do you pray for others? Is your concern most for the welfare of the body which perishes, or the soul which lives forever? May we forget the concerns of our modern Western society for the temporal, and follow Paul’s reason for praying for one another. May our prayer accomplish grand and supernatural things in our fellow brothers and sisters – things such as the attitude of Horatio Spafford’s hymn:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.