By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Are you praying for others and feeling like you’re just saying words? Do your prayers feel trite or without impact? Perhaps you’ve been praying the same thing in the same way for a long time and you’re wondering if trying something else might be more effective.
We know from Scripture that God answers prayer based on His sovereign will, not necessarily our particular prayer technique. God’s Word also tells us: “whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22 NASB). Furthermore, we are told “a prayer of a righteous person… can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
With that kind of confidence behind us—that He hears the prayers of those who abide in Him and ask by faith—here are seven ways to take your prayers for others to the next level and, in the process, discover how exciting and adventuresome prayer can really be.
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1. Pray specifically, rather than generally.
If you’ve been praying “God bless my parents,” “God, provide for my children,” and “God keep them healthy,” I suggest you start being more specific with God. Although He knows exactly what you and your loved ones need, He also loves the challenge of you asking for something specific and measurable so He can show you—and others—how very specifically He answers. As He does, you can rejoice that He is a God who hears and does what is best in someone’s life, down to the last detail.
Hebrews 4:16 tells us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” I believe that verse applies to our requests for others, as well. In the King James Version, that verse says to “come boldly” to God with our requests. Asking boldly, also means asking specifically, just as Abraham did when He interceded with God on behalf of his nephew, Lot, when God was preparing to destroy the city of Sodom and all who were in it (Genesis 18:23-32).
When I have prayed specific requests over individual friends or family members, it has been all the more joyful to see how God has come through, specifically, in answering those requests. That wipes away any doubt in our minds that “providence” or “coincidence” occurred. Pray specifically and see God work specifically.
2. Pray for God’s will for your loved ones, not necessarily their will or your own.
When I asked my brother and his wife several years ago to pray that I would be able to conceive a second child, they began praying, not for another baby for us, but for God’s best for us, and for His specific will to be revealed to us. Through a number of circumstances—including them sharing with us how they were praying—we ended up not with a second child, but with a greater dependence upon God through prayer, a deeper conviction of our calling, and the launch of my writing and speaking ministry to women who were hurting from life’s losses and disappointments.
We often think we know what’s best for our lives (and for others) when we begin to pray, or ask others to pray for us. But only God knows, specifically, what is eternally best for His children. Ask God His will when you pray for others and He may give you—and those you are praying for—a glimpse into His perfect will and timing for their lives.
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3. Pray for God to do the impossible, not the usual, average, or likely.
Sometimes we prefer to pray for just what we think God can do. Or what might happen anyway, so we can attribute it to our prayers. Yet, Scripture proclaims, “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14).
I can’t remember when I first started thinking that I should only pray for what I thought God could answer…as if I was the One who determined what He was capable of, and which prayers might be successful and which might not.
But I threw that notion away the day my sister called me and described her physical symptoms and asked me to pray for an upcoming emergency appointment to diagnose her condition. She asked me to primarily pray for her two adopted daughters because she wasn’t as concerned about her health and with dying as she was with how they would react to the thought of possibly losing their new mother.
We prayed together on the phone for complete healing, for a 100 percent bill of health on the scans and tests. We talked about what a big God we serve and how this was nothing difficult for Him, although it seemed an enormous request from us.
The morning she was to have her diagnosis with both the lab technician and doctor present, I didn’t hear from her. By the time I reached her, she and her husband were at lunch celebrating their wonderful news: all tests showed nothing serious and it was a negative diagnosis for cancer. By then even her symptoms were gone. God completely healed her of what earlier looked like a no-way-out diagnosis.
God can accomplish anything. He can also do what you least suspect or far beyond what you can think to imagine. Stretch your faith by not just asking God for what you think He can do.
Ask Him for what you know cannot happen unless He determines to do it. That is big faith for a big God who can bring about big results. Ephesians 3:20 says He is the One “who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power [of prayer] that works within us.” To paraphrase an ad for the movie theatres: “When it comes to prayer, go big or go home.”
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4. Pray Scripture over their specific situation.
When my daughter was in high school, I noticed that, like a typical teenager, she was very impressed with Hollywood, celebrities, fashion, and all that goes with a love and admiration for the world. Rather than insert my opinions into what I believed should be her priorities and what I hoped she would spend less time and energy on, I began to pray 1 John 2:15-16 over her: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world…” I didn’t see immediate results, but instead of talking to her about God and His Word, I talked to God about her and His Word. And I continued to pray that verse in connection with her life and priorities. Within a year of beginning to pray that verse over her life, she chose a Christian university to attend, went on an overseas community service project in which she shared the love of Jesus with Muslim teenagers, and she came home a different young woman—one who was ready to live simply, biblically, and without an interest in the world and what it had to offer.
Ask God for specific scriptures to pray concerning your loved ones. There is power in Scripture and God says “It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
5. Pray for their hearts, not just their health and material needs.
We tend to ask others to pray for us for the physical – our health, our relationships, our financial provision, our vocation, and so on. Others may ask you to pray for certain things they believe they need or want. Yet our hearts are most important to God and He will often answer in a way that most benefits our relationship with Him.
As a mom, I often pray for my adult daughter’s financial situation. I pray that God will give her wisdom when it comes to saving, spending, and exercising proper stewardship over all God has given her. Mostly, I pray God will provide all she needs. But more important than her material provision is her spiritual condition. When I think back to my financial concerns when I was in my 20s and 30s, I realize those concerns (and many times, anxieties) taught me how to pray and rely on God when I couldn’t make things happen myself. Now, instead of praying, “God please provide all she needs,” the prayer is, “Do whatever it takes in her life to keep her closely knit to You, relying on You, praising You, and discovering daily that You are capable of sustaining her through the ups and downs in her life.”
Pray for others’ spiritual condition, not just for their physical or emotional condition, so that you can echo the Apostle John’s words in 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children [or other loved ones] walking in the truth.”
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6. Record your prayers and God’s answers.
When we pray and just hope to hear from someone one day that our prayers were answered, we rob ourselves of the joy of seeing God come through in exciting ways. When someone asks you to pray for them, write it down, along with the date you began praying, what you actually prayed (and are continuing to pray), and then follow up with them by asking how God is working. We are often more blessed than they are to hear how God responded to our particular (and specific) prayers.
When God answers, write the answer next to the request in a prayer journal or blank book. Remember, sometimes God’s answer is yes, sometimes it is no, and sometimes it is not yet. Later, you and the one you prayed for may find the no or the not yet was because God had something far better in mind. Those situations turn out to be wonderful glory stories of what God does with our prayers and how His will and timing are far better than ours.
7. Pray “on the spot” for someone who needs your prayers.
How many times has someone asked you for prayer and you’ve agreed to pray for them and then forget later to do so? Or, have you ever told someone you would be praying for them (without them having to ask), and then you walked away and either forgot or prayed for them outside of their presence? If you were to pray for them, right there and then, you will have not just kept your word, but very possibly blessed them as they heard you pray (and possibly learned through your prayer how to pray, themselves).
Next time you find yourself starting to say: “I’ll be praying for you” stop and ask that person: “Can I pray for you right now?” I’ve never had someone decline when I’ve offered to pray for them right there on the spot, whether we were in Chick-fil-A, at Starbucks, in an aisle of Target, or on the phone with each other. There is power in prayer spoken aloud, with others. and in the moment. And once you realize how easy and emboldening it is to pray for someone on the spot, instead of promising to pray for them when it’s more convenient or private, you will have taken your prayers for others to the next level.
For more on how to pray Scripture for your children regardless of their ages, see Cindi’s books,10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter: Affirming Her Identity and Dreams in Every Stage of Life.
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