I grew up with a family that was always praying for others. So, as I grew in my faith, I began to pray for others as well.
Prayer is just a conversation with God. Similarly, praying for people involves conversing with God while the other person is there. It sounded pretty straightforward, so I decided to do it as often as possible.
I was genuinely interested in others, and that I believed that God answered prayers.
But I made a lot of mistakes as I prayed for people.
A wise man once told me that the most helpful advice is what not to do. We learn from our mistakes.
With this thought in mind, I am sharing thirteen practical steps for praying for others. These principles reflect the mistakes and subsequent lessons I learned in the process.
Please feel free to imagine every mistake that led me to these principles for praying with others. You will smile or wince in embarrassment.
Here they are in chronological order.
(1) Praying For Others Begins with A Proper Introduction.
Names are important. Always get the name of the person who is speaking with you. Double-check that you are saying it correctly and repeat it several times in the conversation. Make an introduction, and give them your first name.
(2) Praying For Others Requires That We Ask The Right Questions.
Ask them, “How do you want me to pray for you today?” Imagine going to a restaurant and the waiter bringing you a plate of food without asking what you want. Would you be satisfied? I have made the mistake of assuming what the other person wanted me to pray for based on the circumstances presented.
(3) Praying For Others Is Confidential, With One Exception.
At the beginning of the conversation, let them know that what they share with you remains confidential, except for them threatening harm to themselves or someone else. You dare not make an exception to this.
(4) Praying For Others Requires That You Attentively Listen.
Listen to what they say, restate what you believe to be the issue, and ask if you have understood them correctly. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
(5) Praying For Others Is Grace Driven.
Listen without judging or condemning the other person. Now is not the time for correcting them. Instead, now is the time to express God’s unconditional love to them. We should humbly remember that we are the recipients of God’s unconditional love as well.
(6) Praying For Others Affirms Their Worth.
Praying for others affirms the worth and value of that person to God and yourself. They may be overwhelmed with shame and wonder if God still loves them. Remind them that God’s love for them is grounded in his love for them, not their performance. Praying for others recognizes that we are a witness to what God is going to do.
(7) Praying For Others Is A Privilege.
Before you begin to pray, thank them again for the privilege of praying with them. And for the opportunity to be present and a witness to what God is going to do.
(8) Praying For Others Acknowledges God’s Power And Sovereignty.
Ask God to intervene on their behalf. Do not promise healing or a particular answer from God. God is all-powerful, but he is sovereign as well. God does not need to defend or explain his actions.
(9) Praying For Others Often Requires Brevity.
Be aware of your time constraints. They may have somewhere to be or people waiting for them. Microwave prayers are better than long-windedness. So pray earnestly, with faith and brevity.
(10) Praying For Others Is Not Limited To Sunday At Church.
Let them know you will continue to pray for them during the week, and then set aside a time and place to do it. For example, I prayed for people as I walked or as I drove to work. Letting them know you have a time and a place helps them to envision your continued prayers.
(11) Praying For Others Is Amazing When People Tell You How God Answered Their Prayers.
Consider asking them for an update later as to how God moved in the situation.
One Sunday, I felt like I was wasting my time waiting for others to come for prayer. I had faithfully waited for three weeks without a single person responding.
But this Sunday was different. A woman I had previously prayed with warmly greeted me and asked if I remembered her? We had prayed for her wayward daughter, a drug addict, and left her newborn child with her mom.
Almost a year had passed since we had asked God to bring her daughter home.
What she said next surprised me. “Don’t make it obvious that you are looking, but do you see the young girl behind me in the colorful floral dress?
I looked behind her and was quickly able to identify the young girl she was describing.
She said, “She and I have been fussing all morning, but she is off the drugs, reunited with her child, and has returned home. God has brought my daughter home and restored her”.
We rejoiced at how God had answered our prayers. As I left that day, I realized how her report strengthened my faith and her own.
After that day, I had always requested an update as to how God has answered their prayer.
God wants us to pray for others. He wants us to express his unconditional love and faithfulness to answer their prayers. So who is God calling you to pray for today?
What can you do for the person experiencing unbearable grief?