Praying For One Another
by Bob Burridge ©2017
Prayer is an important part of the Christian’s daily life. We all engage in it, and have heard many lessons from Scripture about it.
One of the verses we hear often to encourage us in prayer is James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
This verse is often quoted from the King James Version, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
When we hear this verse explained, the focus is usually on the last phrase. It’s about the effectiveness of the faithful prayers of those clothed in Christ’s righteousness. But the first part of the verse is about our concerns and prayers for others. It tells us to “pray for one another”.
We call this kind of prayer, “intercessory prayer“. Intercession is when you go to someone to ask a benefit for someone else. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word translated as “intercession” is פּגע (pa-gaa). It comes from a root word that originally meant to strike, hit, or to go against someone. It came to be used for going up against someone to urge them to do something good for another.
In Isaiah 53:12 it predicts how our Suffering Savior will intercede for us. It says, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Jesus often prayed for his disciples, for those he came to redeem. His prayer in John 17 is filled with intercession for his people. He prayed in John 17:9, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
The Apostle Paul tells us to intercede for one another in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “intercession” is εντευξίς (enteuxis). It means a petition sent to convince someone to do something to benefit another.
Our English word intercede is from a Latin word intercedo, which means to come between.
Our prayers should be filled with intercession for others, for all people. He paricularly mentions our leaders: those in government, the church, all in authority. God uses those prayers as he works all our lives together for his own glory.
The Bible is filled with the intercessory prayers of the Patriarchs, of Moses, of Joshua, Deborah, Samuel, Job, King David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and of many others. The New Testament books are filled with prayers of intercession and instructions for us to do the same.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:9-10a, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers …”
A Proper Obedience
In our worship services and Bible studies our church takes time to unite in prayer for others. It’s a proper obedience as we gather as God’s people to honor him. There’s joy in being able to be a part of God’s blessings and care in their lives. And we can be comforted to know that the Holy Spirit continues to intercede for us.
Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Always being self-centered in our prayers isn’t healthy prayer. We have the honor of being part of God’s work in the lives of other people as they struggle and deal with life’s challenges. Of course we try to help others directly too when we can. But to pray for them is a special honor. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to bring the needs of others to the throne of God’s grace.
I conclude with a quote from Charles Spurgeon on this verse in James. (I changed the wording to updated English.)
Believer, you have a mighty engine in your hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it with faith, and you shall surely be a benefactor to your brothers. When you have the King’s ear, speak to him for the suffering members of his body. When you are favoured to draw very near to his throne, and the King says to you, “Ask, and I will give you what you will,” let your petitions be, not for yourself alone, but for the many who need his aid.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.