When most people think of prayer, they think of personal prayer – praying for themselves and their own needs. But what about when we pray for others? Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal, and it can be used for so much more than just personal gain. In this blog post, we will discuss the effects of prayer on others, and how it can change their lives in amazing ways!
The act of praying for others is known as intercessory prayer. While it is most common for people who believe in Christ Jesus to also believer in intercessory prayer, it can also be found in other religions. Regardless of whether or not a prayer “works” – learning to pray for others can have very real benefits for the person praying. Here are some examples!
Why we need to commune with God daily
Approaching God shouldn't be scary. If we pray continually, God should be like a friend. In Christianity (and in most religions), God commands us to pray for one another. Even if we live peaceful and quiet lives, praying constantly helps us become a righteous person and live godly lives.
Daily prayer also makes prayer a habit. The more we pray, the easier it gets, and eventually it becomes second nature. This is important because when a crisis does happen, we will be more likely to turn to prayer without even thinking about it. Fellow believers expect us to pray for one another as a form of spiritual growth.
Even in intercessory prayer, however, we need to trust God. he may or may not answer prayers in the way that we expect. Eager expectation can lead to disappointment when we've prayed fervently, seemingly to no avail. If we believe that God loves us all and God hears our prayers, then we can safely be “prayer warriors” and begin praying for others endlessly. It glorifies God, and it helps lift one another's burdens up to our Heavenly Father.
The Physical Benefits of Prayer
I began actively praying a few months ago, and the peace it gives me is unmistakable. I feel like I sleep better when I'm praying for others. I feel like I'm connecting with friends and family members when I pray for others. And I feel like praying for others draws the Lord Jesus Christ closer to me in my quiet time with him.
Prayer has also been shown to have physical benefits. Multiple studies have shown that prayer is associated with a relaxation state, which can lower blood pressure, breaths per minute, and heart rate. This is religion independent – it doesn't require a belief in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirits, or other tenets associated with Christianity. Rather, the act of prayer itself – asking a higher power to intercede – produces these physical benefits.
Another study found that daily prayers had a 40% lower risk of high blood pressure than those who attended religious services or prayed infrequently. People praying is generally a good act, and it can provide benefits even to your peaceful and quiet life.
The Emotional Benefits When You Pray For Others
When we are instructed to pray for one another, we're being told to care. Having compassion and empathy doesn't come easy for many of us; but praying for others involves becoming a little less self centered.
Removing the self from suffering
Being able to do that on command is a great power. If you're worried about something in your own life, praying for others is a powerful way to put it in perspective. I may be worried about a house repair, but a friend of mine might be dealing with cancer. When I pray for others, I bring their problems into the forefront of my mind.
If it sounds a little bit like the tenets of Buddhism: you're right. Most religions involve some form of alleviating suffering through attentiveness, prayer, or meditation. It's because it works.
Building a relationship or encouraging happy feelings
Even if I'm not directly talking to them, when I pray for others, I feel like I'm building my relationship with them. As a mostly selfish person, I'm guilty of being inattentive to my friends sometimes. But when I pray for others, I spend time actually thinking about what they've shared with me. In a way, I suffer with them through their medical and financial struggles. I take on other's burdens, even if only for a few minutes.
And then when I speak with them again, I ask them about their problems. I feel like I have a direct connection with their success. I know what's been going on, and I've been hoping and knowing that God answers prayers. To pray for one another is to build a relationship even when you are apart. Prayer and meditation can do amazing things for your relationships.
How To Pray For Others
Spend time asking a higher power to intercede as you pray for others. Ultimately, that's what it boils down to. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just start thinking about your friends. It's actually easier to speak your prayers out loud at first, so pick a quiet, private place.
It's okay if you don't believe in a higher power. You can still harness the benefits of prayer. There are two things you can do to prep yourself for a prayer habit:
- Spend some time with a fictional God. Try to suspend your disbelief and work in a fantasy world where God is real. If you have to rewrite the rules of God (e.g., YOUR god is a woman, a child, only created the world but doesn't intervene often) – do it. It's fine. It's your God.
- Pray to something else. If it's too hard to pray to a God you don't believe in, then don't. Pray to yourself, the Universe, the ants in the ground, your cat – it doesn't really matter. The exercise is more important than the belief. As I began my praying habit, I would initially pray to the Universe, of which we are all a part.
Jesus says to pray for one another
If you're Christian, or thinking about becoming a Christian, there is more detailed guidance for praying. We see Jesus praying in multiple places in the bible; and after Jesus' resurrection, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on all of the believers. The Holy Spirit is God's voice inside you.
In some traditions, the Holy Spirit intercedes on your behalf with God. In others, all the saints exist to do the same. Whatever flavor of Christianity you follow, remember: there's a loving God where you can find grace.
How to avoid disappointment when you pray for others
As a child, I harbored supernatural beliefs that were untenable. I made ultimate bargains with God. Keep my dog alive (who has a natural lifespan) or you don't exist. Bring my aunt back (from the dead) or God is useless.
In my depression, I fell out of faith for a decade. I missed out on all of the amazing things that faith can do. And I completely missed the great power of prayer in my life.
Praying is not about answered prayers. Praying is about recognizing and hoping for God's work in your life. As the contemporary Christian musicians say, “if it's not good, He's not done.” That's why, even when we ask that Holy Spirit intercede on some aspect of our lives, we end our prayers with “And your will be done.”
Because ultimately, we're not God. And no matter what religion you believe in, the whole point of prayer is appealing to some ultimate figure that has more knowledge and goodness than we do. So we can't pray for things to be worked out in exactly the way we want them to. That path leads to disappointment.
Prayer is a powerful weapon against the darkness. Whenever you're feeling lost, spend some time praying for others. It doesn't matter if you don't believe in a higher power. The act of prayer – of setting aside time to think about other people's lives and how you can help them – is enough.
When we pray for others, we open up the possibility: to receive mercy, to find full courage in a scary time, or even see a blessing granted. A prayerful life, where we pray for one another, makes a better world.