Read Colossians 1:9-12
9 So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord,and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while,you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people,who live in the light. (NLT)
The phrase “I’ll pray for you” rolls off our lips with ease. It can sound so glib,even dismissive. A sort of ‘last resort’ phrase that indicates we can’t think how on earth we can be of any help so in order to say something remotely helpful we offer to pray. And of course there is a sort of truth in that. To pray for someone is so often the only helpful thing we can do. Words are futile,actions are impractical,so we are left with prayer. When all else fails,we pray!
Perhaps we can take a leaf or two out of Paul’s book. Here in this passage (which has parallels in most of his letters),Paul affirms he is praying for his readers. He is praying for some very basic realities: discernment,wisdom,fruitfulness,growth,patience,joy,gratitude. If we are in doubt as to what to pray for others,we can’t go too wrong with a list like that. And furthermore,Paul actually believes in the power of his prayers. This is no clichéd response of a busy person to needy people. He truly believes that when he prays something will happen.
When we pray for another person,it is like taking hold of their hand and taking hold of God’s hand and joining them together (a metaphor of course!). We usher them into God’s presence,we invite him to get to work on them and in them. It is,therefore,powerful stuff. Not that we can dictate through our prayers the outcomes of that encounter between that individual and God. Intercessory prayer is not some spiritualised form of control. My prayers don’t negate that person’s freedom in their relationship to God. And yet,my prayers somehow have an effect. They set up a situation where God and that individual can do business together.
True intercession for others is content to leave that person in God’s hands. Sheer love and concern may press us to pray regularly for some. However,such repeated prayer is never to be an expression of anxiety whereby we wonder if God is really at work. At times it is enough to simply name that person before God as God already knows all there is to know about that person. To pray for someone is never to be a burden but rather a release from burden. To pray for someone is not to worry about them out loud to God,but rather to leave them with him. And in doing so,be sure that they are in the best and safest of hands.