I want to be honest when I tell people I pray for them.
The command of James 5:16: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
The “one another” in that text implies that I am connected with people.
To do so is to please God. God is smiling upon us, because we are doing what he said to do.
Paul is praying for his kinsmen, Romans 10:1, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
Philippians 1 example goes like this: “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9–10).
Romans 15:30–31, “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable.”
Everybody we know needs prayer like that.
Seven Simple Prayer Tips – JP
1) Use a list. Break it up in categories. We are talking about people now, all right? You probably over time are going to know more people, have more people ask you to pray, have your circle of relationships grow so that one list is hopeless. You have got to break it up into pieces, various groups. And I find that creating a notebook in Evernote on my iPad, I have got a notebook called prayer. And under prayer, I have these different kind of groupings, and you can add people to various lists and then you can decide on when you are going to pray for those people. So use lists.
2) Think and pray in concentric circles with the closest relationships near the center and then move out to the more anonymous prayers for groups and ministries and nations. So, for example, in my Evernote folder, I move from my immediate family at home — that is, the three of us, well, actually two now that Talitha is in college, but it used to be three — out from there to the children and the grandchildren who live away and then out from there to the ministries I am associated with and the people in Bethlehem Baptist Church and desiringGod.org and Bethlehem College & Seminary. I have a whole slew of people that I pray for there.
And then I move out to the church planters that I know and the Treasuring Christ Together fellowship. And then I move out to ministries like Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition and Training Leaders International and a lot of friends there that are on my list. And then I move out to my neighborhood and a few people I have written down in the neighborhood and, sometimes just in my jogging-evangelism that I do in good weather and I will meet people and they will tell me their name and I ask them what I can pray for and that goes on one of my lists. So concentric circles is one way I handle the diversity of those lists.
3) Pray the Word of God over these people. This will keep your prayers from being merely repetitive. Read the Word of God first. Meditate on it. Pray in it. And then pray what God shows you from the Word for the people that are appointed to be prayed for that day.
4) Periodically assess your prayers for them by comparing what you pray with what the New Testament prays. I gathered in one place — and I think this is available. We could check, Tony, and make it available. I think it is available at Desiring God. I gathered into one place all of the things that are prayed for in the New Testament — a list of about 40 different prayers. And I use that list not every day, but periodically. I just run through it and say: Okay, am I neglecting anything important that the New Testament prayed for?
5) Mingle general prayers with specific prayers. A lot of people are skittish about general prayers. I love general prayers. Like: Hallowed be thy name all over the world. That is a big, general prayer. Specific prayers are also important. So a specific prayer might be: Grant that Bill would find a job this week. He has been out of work, Lord. Help him find a job. That is specific. You can just — bang — you can see the answer to that immediately. A general prayer would be: Lord, cause Bill to love you more and to treasure you above all. That is a lot harder to detect, right? But so crucial that you pray for.
6) Be quiet over the people and see if God brings things to mind that people might need today and then pray those things if God brings anything specific to mind.
7) And lastly, I would say: Look for answers. Take note of them. Keep some kind of record, maybe in your journal or in another folder: answers. And what keeps it all fresh and authentic is the way it all flows from the Word and goes back to the Word, the Scriptures. And I can’t stress enough that we don’t want to become rote, we don’t want to become mechanical and repetitive. And the best way to do that is to let the Word be fresh daily and let the Word make your prayers for people fresh daily.