As Christians, we’re often asked to pray for someone. That’s called intercessory prayer and it’s kind of like having your co-worker go to your boss to ask him (or her) to give you a raise. You might get that raise, but it would be a longshot at best. It’s far better if you ask for yourself. I used that illustration to give you an idea of what intercessory prayer is. I’m not saying we should not pray for others.
Also, to avoid any misunderstanding, I’m not talking about Christians who ask other Christians to pray for them. That’s something that God’s people naturally do for each other. The people I’m talking about are the unsaved. You work with them. You go to school with them. You live next door to them. They know you’re a Christian. You may have shared your faith with them at some point, or maybe they perceive that something is different about you because of your relationship with God. And now, something has happened in their lives, an illness, family troubles, financial troubles, or they’ve received some sort of bad news. So knowing your relationship with God, they come to you and say, “I need you to pray for me.” This happens a lot.
By all means, pray for them! Pray for their needs and pray that God will reveal Himself to them through His answer. We should do that. But use their prayer request as an opportunity to tell them how they can have their own special relationship with God.
Gently, respectfully, and in the spirit of God’s love…………… tell them that they’ve already taken an important step by acknowledging the existence of an almighty God who hears and answers prayers. When an unsaved person says to you,“Please pray for me.” they are effectually saying, “I believe that God is real, but I’m just not good enough to go to Him myself. I need one of His people to pray on my behalf.” Tell them they can open the door and have direct access to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and when they accept Jesus Christ as their savior, their prayers will be far more personal and might be more effective than they would be by having someone else do their praying for them.
Yes, God does hear intercessory our prayers. I cannot overemphasize that. Abraham prayed an intercessory prayer for Sodom which is the first intercessory prayer recorded in the Bible. Moses prayed intercessory prayers for the Israelites countless times. Paul described in the book of Romans how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray for. And in his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…..”.
I have no doubt then that God calls us to make intercessory prayer for others, saved and unsaved alike. But when it comes to the unsaved, we must teach them, ever so gently, not to become dependent on the intercessory prayers we make on their behalf. No matter how strong our own relationship with Jesus Christ is, the power of intercessory prayers we make on behalf of the unsaved does have limits. While God may very well intervene for someone at our request and help them through a difficult ordeal, when it comes to their salvation, that’s another matter. We can pray that an unsaved person will respond to the gospel, that he or she will choose to accept Christ, but if they choose not to accept Jesus Christ, God will not intervene and save them from condemnation….no matter how hard we pray for them. Every person individually must pray the prayer that invites Jesus Christ to be the Lord of his or her life. We cannot do that for them. And that is our ultimate goal, to show them the way to God through Jesus Christ, so they can experience the power of God through prayers of their own.