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Why Should We Pray for Others?

Written By M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

“I will pray for you.”

I believe all Christians are familiar with this sentence. It is the most common response we receive from our brothers and sisters in Christ when we share our troubles with them.

But do prayers of intercession really work? I used to doubt it. If intercession really helps, why are my non-believing relatives still resisting God? If intercession is really effective, why have the sick still not recovered? If intercession is really powerful, why are Christians around the world still being persecuted?

Moreover, isn’t God omniscient? So even if we do not pray on behalf of others, God would still know their needs, right?

Not long ago, I opened the Bible, desiring to find out more about the role and importance of intercession. The time I spent with the Word taught me five lessons. These lessons have been a tremendous encouragement to me and they urge me to reexamine my doubts towards praying for others. If you’re experiencing the same doubts as I do, I pray that the points below will help you see the importance of prayers of intercession.

 

1. Prayers of intercession please God

In Isaiah 59, God was astonished and displeased, for there wasn’t anyone who would help or pray and intercede for Israel. Isaiah writes, “He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:16).

If we want to please God, we ought to love others by praying for them. For example, we can attend the church’s weekly prayer meeting to pray for the needs of the church.

On a personal level, I feel disappointed with the politics and law in my country and am unhappy about some policies that are set in place. Seeing the state of my country, it is easy to just give up praying for my country. However, God used this episode in the Bible to remind me to persevere in prayer, for my prayers please Him.

 

2. Prayers of intercession were done by Jesus and His followers

Jesus taught us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). He Himself served as an example when He prayed to the Father to forgive the people who persecuted Him. It would be easy for Jesus to curse the people who crucified Him on the cross. Instead, Jesus chose to intercede on their behalf (Luke 23:34). Jesus sets the example for us, showing us that it is possible for us to do the same.

We can also take comfort in the fact that Jesus cares for those who intercede for others. In Jesus’ three years of ministry, He answered many prayers of intercession. For example, the centurion who pleaded for his servant (Matthew 8:5-13), the synagogue leader who pleaded for his severely ill daughter (Matthew 9:18-26), the father who pleaded for his possessed son (Mark 9:14-29), and many more. Can we also follow these examples and pray for someone we know?

I have a list of people I pray for frequently. These people include my family who has yet to come to know Jesus, friends whose faith are stagnant, and children whom I support from the World Vision. And what encouraged me was to see how God answered prayers—one of my friends who has depression, started to interact with people and smile more.  I was very thankful for that.

 

3. Prayers of intercession bring us closer to the heart of God

God has a plan in every decision He makes. The sin of the city of Sodom was so great and grievous that in His anger, God wanted to destroy the whole city (Genesis 18).

Abraham interceded for Sodom and even negotiated with God, asking God not to destroy the city if there were even 10 righteous people in it. God was not displeased with Abraham’s plea. In fact, God patiently answered him.

Perhaps, God was pleased by Abraham’s request because it showed how much he loves and treasures lives. I believe Abraham slowly began to understand that God loved man more than he does, and that as long as there is one righteous man in the city, God would spare the city.

Eventually, God sent angels to rescue Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family, before the city of Sodom was destroyed. God showed His compassion and love once again. Therefore, when we continue to pray, we will gradually understand what the heart of God is like.

 

4. Prayers of intercession increase our empathy for the people we pray for

When we feel helpless and inadequate to help others overcome their difficulties, do not forget that as Christians, we have the power of prayer. We may not fully understand what a person is going through, but as we pray for them continually, we learn to put ourselves in their shoes and empathize with them.

When I pray for missionaries, I can imagine how hard it is for them to be away from home, to be alone overseas. When I pray for my persecuted brothers and sisters, I can feel their pain.

On top of that, others are encouraged to persevere in the faith when they know someone is praying for them. When we empathize with others, we demonstrate God’s love, and comfort them in their difficult times.

 

5. Prayers of intercession help us share each other’s burdens

Problems may not be resolved immediately after we pray for others. But the Holy Spirit can strengthen and comfort those we pray for.

When I was overseas pursuing my Masters’ degree, I was overwhelmed by the heavy load of assignments. I did not want to share my stress with my family, as I was afraid that they would worry about me. But being alone in another country, I did not have friends to talk to either. It came to a point where I wanted to give up and return to my country.

Shouldering the weight of all my burdens alone, I went to a church prayer meeting where a group of sisters prayed for me. As they prayed for me, tears flowed down my cheeks uncontrollably, and I could feel the weight of my burdens lifting.

I am now pursuing my Ph.D. Although my workload is still just as heavy and at times I feel like giving up, I know many others are praying for me and that I can always regain strength from God.

 

When we pray for others, we move from a self-centered focus to a love for God and people.

As our friends share their troubles with us, has it become a habit to just say “I will pray for you”, without taking any action? Has it become a convenient way to brush someone aside? We ought to treat our prayers for others seriously. Instead of saying “I will pray for you”, let us say, “Let me pray for you now”, and then immediately pray together with them!

Perhaps you have been praying for a long time and things still remain unchanged. But do not lose heart. As long as we are willing to spend time praying, it will not be in vain. May we learn to pray like Jesus did in Luke 22:42, asking for God’s will to be done and not ours.

God Makes the Impossible Possible

Written By Silvia Y, Indonesia

“So, what are you going to do now that you’re done with your Master’s?” That was a question I was repeatedly asked after completing my Master’s in International Relations in China.

I had just returned to Indonesia, and it seemed natural that I should apply to a big company or enterprise. After all, they would offer me the highest salary.

That decision could be assumed for most people. But somehow, I didn’t hanker after it. I’m not very sure why, but I signed up for the civil servant test in my country to become a diplomat. Although I was aware of the stigma—that an Indonesian Chinese like me would not be accepted for the job—I wanted to contribute directly to my country.

Of course, my friends and family members thought that my decision to take the test was very ridiculous and would not end well. They advised me against it and told me to change my mind before it was too late.

I understood their concerns—very few Chinese descendants in Indonesia are able to become civil servants. However, it was not out of sheer spontaneity that I decided to take the test.

I remember one Sunday after church service when I sat alone and prayed for God’s direction. I was worried about taking the test, and had asked God if taking the civil servant test was the right thing to do.

Immediately, I felt a sense of peace within me—I knew that God had said yes. In Colossians 3:15, we are commanded to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  God may not have answered my prayers audibly. However, I knew it was His Spirit giving me peace, comforting me and assuring me to go on.

God affirmed my decision to listen to Him. After four consecutive tests that I took over a period of three months, I was chosen from the thousands of people who applied. Others would say that I was accepted because of my ability, but I am certain that it was because God had guided me through each phase.

 

Learning French

Recently, I was reminded again that God is always in control. After praying earnestly, I decided to take on a Master’s program offered by my office. This time, I hit a seemingly insurmountable problem: the lessons would be taught in French and I would need to master the language first.

The last time I attended classes, I could barely pass the elementary A2 level. To take a Master’s that was offered in French, I had to obtain a French language certificate at B2 level.

Fortunately for me, there was a two-month-long preparation class I could take prior to  taking the official B2 level language test. The class was a very intensive one; it lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for six days a week—our only break being Saturday.

Each day, I would go back home after class and pray that God would give me the necessary wisdom to understand all the French readings. Compared to my three other classmates, I was behind and I struggled to catch up.

My colleagues—who were of another faith—jokingly said that they wished I would fail the language test so that I could continue organizing the big forum we were planning for next year. I shared this with another friend at office—who belonged to the same faith as them—and she said: “Let’s see whose prayer would be answered—yours or theirs.”

It was probably a nonchalant remark but it impacted me. I felt like failing the French test would show that I was worshipping the “wrong” God in their eyes. I poured out my worries to God and again, God gave me peace and assurance that I could do it.

This time, God used other believers to speak to me. My supportive parents kept reminding me that I would be able to do it because God was with me. Each time I prayed, I became more convinced that God was in control.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul reminds us that God can use our weaknesses for His glory: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

 

The Power of Prayer

Since then, I’ve learned to ask God what He wants to do with my life before considering the most appealing option in my limited human eyes. Even though God’s answer may seem impossible when we look at it with our own finite wisdom, I have faith and peace in Christ. If God tells me to go ahead and pursue it, I know everything will be fine and I just have to obey.

We really should not underestimate the power and importance of prayer. Our prayers may not be answered immediately or in the way we hope they would be, but we can trust that our faithful Father hears and answers them.

Thanks to the Lord Jesus, I am flying to the southwest part of France this September for my Master’s in French Art, Language and Culture at the University of La Rochelle. I am sharing my story because I cannot keep the goodness of God for myself. I hope my story will encourage you and serve as a reminder that God never fails in His promises to take care of you.

Let us strive to live a life in which we make decisions that align to God’s truth and divine will. Taste and see how good our God is, for He provides more than what our heart desires.  All glory goes to God above!

God Answered My Prayers with 2 Potatoes

Illustration by Lara Sim
Written by Diana Yemima, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

Prayer can be answered in many small ways. For me, it came in the form of two precious potatoes.

I come from a relatively poor family. With my father’s meagre salary as an administrative staff, we struggled to feed ourselves after paying the utility bills. To help with the finances, my mother sold snacks—plain sugar “doughnuts” made out of potatoes—around our neighborhood.

Because of my mother’s weak constitution, she could not work every day. So, for three days each week, she would sell her doughnuts by the roadside. On the other days, she would do the household chores and visit the market to buy the ingredients for the doughnuts. Selling doughnuts only three days a week, my mother said, was her “strategy” to keep the demand high.

The Lord blessed my mother’s business. Her customers would buy plenty—some more than five doughnuts at a time. The doughnuts would always be sold out by the end of the day, providing us enough money to buy food for the family.

On one occasion, however, we didn’t have enough money to pay the electricity bill as my father had used some of his income to pay off some debts. Desperate, my father tried to take a loan, but he didn’t succeed. To help, I decided to draw out all my savings. I was reminded of Luke 3:14, where John instructed the soldiers to be content with their pay. This verse reassured me that God would provide for all of our needs.

I remember holding the money in my palm and praying: “Oh Father, you know that this is all the money we have left and this money will be used to pay the electricity bill. I leave this money in Your almighty hands. With this money, we shall be able to afford all our needs until the end of the month. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

With my savings and the money meant to buy the ingredients for my mother’s doughnuts, we just had enough money to pay the electricity bill.

Then came Monday, the day my mother was supposed to make doughnuts for sale the next day. Knowing that we had used up the money to pay off the electricity bills, I asked my mum, “Are there no ingredients left in the kitchen?” There were two potatoes, she replied, but she needed two more to make the doughnuts. Not believing her, I rushed to the dimly-lit kitchen to check. She was right—there were only two potatoes left.

I knew that if my mother didn’t sell any doughnuts the next day, we would not have enough money to buy food for the family. So I went to my room and prayed: “God, thank You for blessing us so that we could eventually pay the electricity bill without borrowing any money. But, God, my mother has run out of potatoes to make doughnuts, even though we need the money to buy our meals for tomorrow. Father, I believe that You will never neglect Your children or let them starve. You will have a solution to our problems. We leave everything in Your almighty hands. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

After I had prayed, I left my room and saw my mother approaching me with a big smile on her face. My father had found two more potatoes hidden underneath the stairs! At first, my mother was worried that those potatoes had rotted since they were left over from last week, but surprisingly, they were still in good condition.

I was moved to tears when I saw God’s provision. I knew that the potatoes were from God. God had answered my prayer with two potatoes. I realized that God’s help is never too early or too late—it is always on time.

When we face a difficult situation and it seems like there is no way out, God has the best solution for His children. My experience with God was proof that He will always provide.

Since then, God’s promise in Luke 12:22-24 has always assured me greatly. He promises to care for us, His children, and to provide for our needs. The Lord Jesus told us that the ravens do not sow or reap and still, God cares for them. So if God cares for even the ravens, what more us, His children?

God will never renege on His promises, but we also need to do our part. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). No matter how big our problems are, the Lord Jesus is always walking alongside us, and He will even carry us when we feel weak. It is only when we admit our weaknesses and humble ourselves in front of Him, that we will feel His presence in our life.

No matter how unsolvable our problems might seem, do not give in to the situation—give in to God.

Praying: For whose ears?

Photo by Terry Bidgood

Palms sweaty, heart racing, mind on overdrive.

No, it’s not nervousness over an impending exam or presentation, but, well . . . praying with others.

Even though I grew up in a “culturally Christian” family, I had never really prayed with others before. The closest I had come to it was muttering a quick prayer before the occasional celebratory family meal to give thanks for the food.

But for the most part, I saw prayer as a one-on-one, personal conversation between me and my Father—my whispered words for His ears alone. So, after I truly accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and joined a small family church where praying with those around us was a common practice, I was both intrigued and terrified.

I had never heard people talking to God out loud before, and doing so felt like I was spying on a secret conversation. While I was comfortable observing them, I would clam up whenever it was my turn.

I remember one occasion in particular: I was painfully stuttering through a prayer with two older people I’d just been acquainted with, my eyes scrunched up in concentration and cheeks warm. I felt stupid for not knowing how to pray, and mortified at how stilted my prayer was compared to theirs; my words sounded thick and clunky coming out of my mouth.

Over time, as I listened to the prayers of others, I couldn’t help but notice how they prayed. Some stammered, generously sprinkling filler words like “um” and “like” throughout their prayers; others were capable of reciting concise summaries of sermons we’d just heard in a perfectly packaged prayer. Some prayed like a bullet train, spurting out clipped words in a single breath, while others meandered wherever their thoughts took them. Some prayed with boredom tinging their voices, others prayed with emotion quivering at the back of their throats.

I marveled at my best friend’s eloquent prayers, richly adorned with descriptive language and generously furnished with Bible verses. I envied her easy confidence and poignant words, which felt like a much more pleasing prayer to the Lord’s ears than my own—or so I imagined.

As I listened to them, I began to pick up expressions and phrases to incorporate in my own articulated prayers, as if collecting shiny baubles to deck my petitions to God with. Without knowing it, I became overly conscious of what I sounded like in the ears of others—and even critical and condescending as I began to judge other people’s prayers against my own.

One Sunday, I had the opportunity to pray with a sister a couple of years younger than me. She was a small, unassuming, and quiet girl whom I hardly knew. Even though she came from a Mandarin-speaking background and wasn’t fluent in English, her prayer was beautiful. She prayed to the Lord earnestly and simply, with short sentences, in a tone of complete reverence and humility. And even though she spoke with few words, I could hear and feel her love for God.

Right then, I felt ashamed of my own prayer, which, though gracefully delivered, didn’t come from an intimate or authentic place. Instead, it was motivated by a subconscious desire to be found praying the “right” way, and to sound and appear holy and perfect, as I assumed Christians ought to be. As I learnt to participate in corporate prayer, I had unknowingly mistaken my primary audience to be my fellow brothers and sisters. I had forgotten that while praying with others can be one way to edify and encourage them, it shouldn’t be the main motivation behind praying with others. This sweet, young sister-in-Christ made me realize that no oratory prowess can compare to a humble prayer uttered from a genuine and contrite spirit.

Jesus made it clear that He isn’t impressed by eloquent prayers that exalt Him on the surface but indirectly exalt the person praying (Matthew 6:5-13; 23:5-12). Rather, He is pleased with and accepts the prayers of those who call upon His name in repentance (Luke 18:10-14).

Today, I have learned to pray slowly and thoughtfully, and to murmur simple, heartfelt words directed solely for the ears of my Father in Heaven while in the presence of others. After all, our prayers are ultimately for God’s ears, who alone hears and answers according to His perfect will and in His perfect time.