“Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” – John 17:18-21
In the midst of His greatest trial, Jesus prayed fervently. What would you have prayed about when facing torture and death? It’s fascinating to see what was on Jesus’ mind as He prayed, not only for Himself (Luke 22:41-42), but for His disciples and for us as evidenced by the John 17 passage above. Jesus did not just focus inward, but by His words and His prayers showed that He wanted love and joy and peace and patience and all the fruit of God’s Spirit for His followers. He knew that His trial would be their trial. He knew that when He, the good Shepherd, was struck, “the sheep will be scattered” (Mark 14:27). He prayed for them—and us—out of love and deep concern.
We too should pray for others, including the people that we know who are far from the heart of God. Intercessory prayer is prayer for others. Scripture tells us that when we say prayers of intercession, we are building bridges between God and the people for whom we pray. In 1 Timothy 2:1–2, Paul writes: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”
As pastor I have talked to people who have worked hard and long in an attempt to win a relative or friend for the Lord. Some of them have paused and then said, “It hasn’t worked. So where do I go from here?” There is a natural tendency to believe that they were not persuasive enough. And secondly there is the urge to give up on the person. We need to push back against both of these reactions in favor of a much better response, prayer. Pray that God would draw the person who is far from the heart of God to Him. Then pray that they would seek to know God through people or circumstances. And finally pray that they will believe in Christ as their Savior.
As Christ followers, many of us don’t really think about the lost, even though the Bible makes it very clear that this condition is grave. Much of our spiritual energy is spent on the saved, which is also necessary, but Jesus said that “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10) We need to have this same heart as we consider those who are spiritually lost. And that begins with intercessory prayer.
- What does intercessory prayer mean to you?
- Do you pray for other people? Do these prayers work? What do you do when a prayer is not answered (as you thought it would be)?
- What lost friend or relative can you intercede for today?