Brady: The impact of intercessory prayer

Published 7:15 pm Monday, November 27, 2017

The Rev. Dr. John Killinger, noted minister, professor and author, says that “It is easy enough when you begin to pray for others (and sometimes even after years of such praying) to wonder what good it can possibly do the person you are praying for.”

I remember seeing a cartoon of a little boy kneeling in prayer who seemed to be put out with the almighty. In his prayer he said, “Aunt Stella isn’t married yet. Uncle Hubert hasn’t got a job yet. Daddy’s hair is stilling falling out. I’m tired of saying prayers for this family without getting results.” I wonder how many people in real life this little cartoon character is speaking for concerning praying for others.

On the other hand, the Apostle Paul has gone through some kind of terrible experience in Ephesus and has been miraculously delivered. And without doubt, he believes that his deliverance has been in answer to prayer-the prayers of others. Thus, it is that Paul asks for the continuing prayers of the Corinthians. Paul states to the Corinthians, “As you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many others” (2 Corinthians 1:11).

Our subject for this article is intercessory prayer, and the Bible is full of it. Study the lives of some of the great figures in the Old Testament — Abraham, Moses, Samuel, etc. They were all intercessors with God for others. Then, of course, there is Jesus, the supreme example for all of life, including the prayer life. He was, indeed, the great intercessor.

Now, all of this raises a fundamental question. What about intercessory prayer? Does it do any good to pray for others? Admittedly, there is much about intercessory prayer that we do not understand, but, like Jesus and Paul, I believe in intercessory prayer.

First, intercessory prayer does something good for the one who prays. Many times we feel so helpless-that loved one is beyond our reach, somebody is desperately ill or some situation seems hopeless, but we can always pray. Not only is prayer for others our privilege and our duty, but at times it is our own salvation. When we pray for others, something happens in us.

Intercessory prayer not only changes the minds of those who pray for others, but the wills of those who pray for others. We simply cannot authentically pray for others without being compelled to act in their behalf. In other words, we will no longer be among the ranks of the spectators.

Beth was a member of the board of an inner-city community center. The center needed a new van for transporting the many children in its program. Beth had been praying that God would supply the funds necessary for purchasing the van. At about the same time, she and her husband were shopping for a new car to replace their older model. One day, it occurred to her that if they kept the car they had, they could donate the money necessary to buy the van. Beth’s desire to answer her own prayer made it possible for many others to be blessed. If we pray for others, we will be moved to act in their behalf.

Second, intercessory prayer does something good for the ones prayed for. When the great reformer, Martin Luther, felt particularly strong and happy he would exclaim, “I feel as if I were being prayed for.” To know that you are being prayed for is a heartening experience. While criticism tends to push us down, to know that someone is praying for us is a source of sustaining strength.

As a minister, I have always found it humbling and strengthening to be prayed for in public.

What about those who do not know that we are praying for them? Speaking of his own practice of intercessory prayer, all that William Temple, the late Archbishop of Canterbury would say was this, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I do not, they don’t.” And perhaps that’s all that needs to he said.

Third, intercessory prayer does something good in our cooperating with God. In praying on behalf of others, we are only cooperating with God, entering into partnership with God’s purposes. Lloyd Ogilvie, former chaplain of the United States Senate, said that intercessory prayer is God putting his burdens on our hearts.” So, in praying for others, we are not asking God to interest himself  in those for whom we pray. God is already more interested in them than we are. Rather, we are in a sense proving to God that we are also concerned about them and are submitting our concerns for his approval and correction. Paul assures us that “It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).

A poor working girl became a Christian. She couldn’t do much in the way of work in the church, but she reported, “When I go to bed, I take the newspaper with me. I read the birth notices and pray for the little babies. I read the notices of the marriages and pray that those married will be happy. I read the obituary column and pray that the sorrowing will be comforted.” There is simply no way of knowing how those lives, prayed for, have been touched and helped.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.