I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone (1 Timothy 2:1).
There are sound reasons why I constantly remind you to pray for one another. The first of those reasons is that it is a biblical mandate. Prayer is not an optional task that we perform only on special occasions. Prayer is a fact of spiritual life. We cannot remain in Christ without the discipline of prayer. Jesus reminded his disciples that they cannot survive without being connected to him. The connecting tissue is the practice of prayer.
The second reason that I continue to push you in the practice of prayer is for the health of Christ’s body, the church. Before he went to the cross Jesus prayed for the unity of those he was leaving behind: protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one (John 17:11). When the people of God pray for one another there is unity and spiritual maturity in the body of Christ. The lack of prayer is equally obvious.
The words of Paul to Timothy call us to make supplications, intercessions and thanksgivings for everyone. The work of intercession is crucial to our personal spiritual development. It is critical to the life of the body of Christ.
In his book, Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes concerning intercession: “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. There is no dislike, no personal tension, no estrangement that cannot be overcome by intercession . . .Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day.”
As a first step in intercessory prayer I want to renew the challenge to each of you to find a prayer partner. When you establish a relationship with a prayer partner you will begin the practice of intercessory prayer. You will intercede for specific requests and in turn your prayer partner will intercede for you. It is a practical method of learning this form of prayer which will strengthen your personal relationship with God and with at least one other person.
Intercession is often defined as representing another person to God. It may be better understood as seeing the other person as God sees them. When we learn to see one another through God’s eyes we will find ourselves much less judgmental, a great deal more patient and understanding. When we see the other as God sees them forgiveness will be a matter of fact, not a legalistic task that we simply must perform.
When we pray in community we will experience both personal and corporate growth. It cannot be otherwise. We neglect the discipline of intercessory prayer to the detriment of our spiritual growth and the demise of the Christ’s body.
The old hymn states it quite simply: “For you I am praying, For you I am praying, For you I am praying, I’m praying for you.”
Below are five suggestions for establishing a prayer partner relationship.
1. Invite someone to join you in a mutual prayer journey.
2. Meet regularly. Once per week is preferable. You may meet in person or by phone.
3. Share what is happening in your life, at work or at home. Joys and concerns.
4. Maintain absolute confidentiality.
5. At the close of each session ask the question, “How can I pray for you?” As you become comfortable pray aloud for each other.
Prayer doesn’t change things. Prayer changes me. As I am transformed each day more fully into the image of Christ, my relationships are transformed, my thoughts become more fully the thoughts of Christ. Home life, work challenges, and social interactions are all transformed because of the practice of prayer. Ultimately, the body of Christ is transformed as each of us take seriously the requirement to pray daily for one another.