“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 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.” (James 5:13-16)
The highest blessings of prayer can come to ourselves only as we pray, interceding for others. In his poem called “Anselmo,” James Whitcomb Riley gives us a wholesome lesson on the value of intercessory prayer. He describes a religious person who, for years, had prayed “vainly” because his prayers were centered on himself. He prayed, fasted, did penance, and scourged himself to obtain spiritual satisfaction. But all in vain. Then, one day, this religious person lifted his eyes upon a “wretched outcast” and, in great pity for him, prayed for God’s grace to rest upon him. Whereupon a gentle voice fell on his ears, assuring him that his prayer had been heard. The poem closes with these impressive lines:
So is it now for all men else I pray;
So is it I am blessed and glad alway.
Our Lord’s great intercessory prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel is an example for us to follow. In that prayer, Jesus prayed for His own immediate group of disciples and for all who would come to be His disciples in the future. James, the Lord’s brother, exhorts all believers to “pray one for another.” If this spirit of intercessory prayer would really lay hold of the Church, what a difference it would make! We would pray for one another with understanding, sympathy, and love. We would be more thoughtful and considerate of the peculiar burdens and trials of those around us, and we would seek to help them in their struggles by fervent, intercessory prayer. Even now, we pray, Lord, teach us to pray for others, even as we pray for ourselves.
What a privilege to bring the needs of others before God’s throne of grace in prayer. Ours becomes an intercession for His great love and mercy to be given to our fellow soldiers who are weary in the battle of life. Our prayer goes beyond seeking His amazing grace … His marvelous mercy. We will find ourselves asking that He would give them victory.
Something amazing happens as we enter the arena of the spirit to do battle for others. We soon become aware of an elevation, a heightening; indeed, an empowering happening within our own selves. Because we have touched Him for others, He also touches us. Then, in all the things of our concern, we are made more than conquerors through him that loved us. Now, we will shout the victory!
Francis Mason Pastor Mason