Paul was a man who knew what it was to pray for others. In Romans 1:9, he says to the Christians of Rome, “Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” He was also a man who wanted others to pray for him. In Romans 15:30, he asks those same Christians to, “Strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” Intercessory prayer (Christians praying for one another), what a great concept! It’s a shame that we treat it so lightly.
V. Raymond Edman, of Wheaton, Illinois, was a twenty-five-year-old doctor on a medical mission trip to the aboriginal villages high in the Ecuadorian Andes. The Inca children of those villages were dying of a mysterious disease. While attempting to treat them, Edman was stricken with typhus fever. Somehow he made the long trip back down the mountain trails to his home in Riobamba. There he was found by a fellow American who convinced some of the natives to carry him to the railroad, from which he was taken to the region’s Parker Clinic.
As Edman lingered between life and death, he recalled how his mother had once told him that people who are dying oftentimes review their lives in detail. This happened to him. He remembered his old homeplace in Illinois, his grade-school teachers, his high-school friends, and his days as a solider serving in a medical unit overseas. It was all like a newsreel. When it was finished, he thought, “Now I have come to die. I’ll be in eternity in just a few moments.”
At first he felt alone and frightened, not knowing exactly what to expect. But then he became aware of a presence in the room. It began on the floor and rose to the level of the bed, engulfing everything as it went. It wasn’t until the presence began to engulf him that he realized what it was: the love of God in Christ. That love was so amazing, so powerful, so wonderful that it quickly erased all of the young doctor’s fear of dying. He realized that “the great Beyond” was a place far better than this world, and that thought helped him embrace death. He saw himself as wading out to meet it like wading out into a stream.
The next thing Edman knew, two full weeks had passed and he was now recovering from his near-death experience. The Ecuadorian nurses told him how they had cared for him and how Dr. Parker had advised his wife to prepare for a funeral. She had done so by purchasing a coffin, arranging for a burial service, and dying her wedding dress black.
Then Edman was told another story. It was one about a small group of Christians who had been meeting for a Bible conference near Attleboro, Massachusetts. One morning the conference director, Rev. E. Jospeh Evans, had told the group that he was experiencing a deep concern for Dr. Edman in Ecuador. He had suggested the group pray for the doctor. And for the next several hours the group had done just that. They had prayed through the remainder of the morning, through the lunch hour, and up into the middle of the afternoon. Finally, God had given them the assurance that their prayers had been answered. Little had they known just how close Dr. Edman had coming to leaving this world.
In one of my former pastorates, I had a deacon who would say to people, “If you don’t have anybody else to pray for, pray for me.” I always liked it when he said that. The request was so humble, so earnest, so genuine. He really wanted others to pray for him.
Abraham (in the sense of prayer being a conversation with God) prayed for Lot and Lot’s family (Genesis 18:16-33). Isaac prayed for his wife Rebekah (Genesis 25:21). Paul prayed for Philemon (Philemon 1:4) and Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18). Peter and John prayed for the new believers of Samaria (Acts 8:14-17). You get the idea. The believer whose prayer life is what God wants it to be will be well versed in intercesory prayer.
I realize that intercessory prayer doesn’t have to be limited to a Christian praying for another Christian. It can just as easily be that Christian praying for a lost person. For the purposes of this post, though, let’s narrow the beam down to you, the Christian, praying for one particular brother or sister in Christ. This isn’t the time for one of those “all around the world” prayers. You know, the one that goes, “Lord, bless all Christians everywhere.” No, I want you to hone yourself in on one believer and spend some time fervently praying to God for that person. Who knows what a difference you can make in that Christian’s life? And, by the way, if you can’t think of anyone to pray for, pray for me. I can always use it.