Praying for others—and this applies to prayer in general—is an easy thing to question. Why should we pray if God already has our best interests at heart? He is wiser than we are, by a long shot. Why does He need us to pray? Wouldn’t it be better to just trust Him to do what’s best? It’s true that God is wiser than we are (1 Corinthians 1:25) and that we should trust Him (Proverbs 3:5–6). And it’s for those very reasons that we need to pray, because praying for ourselves and praying for others is something God commands us to do.
Praying for others is recommended as a source of healing (James 5:16) along with confession. James tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Now, does this mean that only the prayers of good people are heard? No, the word righteous in the Bible refers to those who have faith and are covered by Jesus’ righteousness (Romans 5:1; 3:21–22; 4:2–3).
Jesus told us to pray in His name (John 14:13–14). If you do something “in the name of” someone else, it means you do it according to his wishes. Therefore, knowing God and understanding Him is an integral part of prayer. Now we begin to see why praying for others is important. Prayer is not about getting everything we want or keeping others safe, healthy, and problem-free at all times. Prayer is a powerful way in which we get to know our Savior, and it also brings believers together. Effective prayer for others will bring us closer to God, because effective prayer is based on a knowledge of His will (1 John 5:14). It will also bring us closer to others, as we learn more about them and focus on their needs.
For most of us, praying for others tends to run along these lines: Lord, provide my friend with a job, a car that runs, good health, and safety. If we really know someone well, we might pray for his or her marriage or other relationships. There is nothing wrong with praying for these things; in fact, the Bible encourages us to pray for everything and, doing so, quell our anxieties (Philippians 4:6). It is right to pray for health and for good things to happen (3 John 1:2).
However, most of the prayers recorded in the Bible are of another type. When Jesus was praying for others, He prayed for their faith (Luke 22:32), He prayed against temptation in their lives (Luke 22:40), He prayed for their unity (John 17:11), and He prayed for their sanctification (John 17:17). Paul prayed for the salvation of the lost (Romans 10:1); he prayed that the brothers would stay on the right path (2 Corinthians 13:7); he prayed that believers would be strengthened by the Spirit, rooted and grounded in love, able to comprehend God’s love, and filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14–19). These are all prayers for spiritual blessings; they are all “in Jesus’ name” and according to the Father’s will—prayers that are guaranteed to find a “yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Praying for others is important because it fulfills a New Testament command. We are to pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1). We are to pray for government leaders (1 Timothy 2:2). We are to pray for the unsaved (1 Timothy 2:3). We are to pray for fellow Christians (Ephesians 6:18). We are to pray for ministers of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19–20). We are to pray for the persecuted church (Hebrews 13:3). Praying for others gets our focus off of ourselves and onto the needs around us. As we “carry each other’s burdens,” we “will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Begin praying for others today and help to build up the body of Christ.