Praying for the needs of others is known as intercessory prayer.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word intercede means to intervene between parties with a view to reconciling differences. We intercede to God on behalf of others. Intercession can be defined as prayer, petition, or entreaty in favor of another.
While we should pray for our own needs: that of our health, faith, and well-being, praying for the needs of others is a great way to love our neighbors, especially those whom we will never have the opportunity to meet.
The Bible has a lot to say about intercession.
We first hear about intercessory prayer in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Abimelech, a king who had kidnapped Sarah, the wife of the prophet Abraham, had a dream where God appeared to him and said (Genesis 20:7),
"Return the man's wife so that he may intercede for you since he is a prophet, that you may live. If you do not return her, you can be sure that you and all who are yours will die."
Intercession is seen repeatedly in the lives of Old Testament prophets who prayed to God on behalf of the Israelites. In addition, it is depicted in the book of the prophet Isaiah as what Jesus accomplished by his death to bridge the gap between God and sinful humans.
The book of Acts details how Jesus' Apostles spread the Gospel message after Jesus ascended into Heaven. In Acts 8, after newly baptized convert and former sorcerer Simon was condemned by Peter, the leader of the Apostles, for attempting to bribe the Apostles to gain extraordinary power, Simon said (v. 24), "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."
In the first letter of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, Paul says (1 Timothy 2:1–2),
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
There are plenty more examples in the Bible where someone interceded in prayer on behalf of another person's needs. These passages show how intercession is one of the principal avenues for God's followers to strengthen their faith, support each other, and help all people.
What does this mean for us?
God wants us to pray for each other, those we know and those we don't. Praying for others is not fruitless labor. As myself and countless other Christians can attest, many petitions we have requested for the needs of others have come to fruition.
Christians commonly pray for friends and relatives to be healed of illnesses and diseases; if God wills it, they will be. I prayed daily for almost a year for a friend with a chronic, incurable disease to be healed, and one day a blood test showed that the condition was no longer present!
One intercessory prayer I love is the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a woman, giving her a prayer to say daily for the end of degeneration, disaster, and war. Mary said that if this prayer is repeated once a day, "I assure you this world will change." It is as follows.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now Your Spirit over the Earth. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in the hearts of all Nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster, and war. May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate. Amen.
Here are some Bible verses to get your prayer juices flowing.
John 15:7 (Jesus speaking)
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will be done for you.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Matthew 21:22 (Jesus speaking)
Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.
With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and persevere in prayer.
Then [Jesus] told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
All Scriptures quoted are from the New American Bible.
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