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What Does it Mean to Pray for Someone?

From "Call Him, He's Home: A Regular Person's Guide to Prayer"

Praying for Ourselves and Others
Very often, when we think of praying, it’s in response to some urgent need that either you or someone else has for which they need ‘all the help they can get.’

The need usually relates to someone’s health or safety, either or both of which are in immediate jeopardy. 
When you pray for someone, you are petitioning God, who makes all things and has all power, to help that person with whatever they need, with confidence that He will provide the perfect resolution at the perfect time. 

As a believer who prays sincerely and with expectation, your prayer is always answered. The issue may not be resolved as you have requested, but we must trust the Lord to deliver, at least as good, if not better, in His perfect timing.

Although prayer is always needed in life-or-death crises, it’s needed at other times too. Maybe a child is struggling in school, a spouse is having trouble at work, or a friend’s marriage is breaking up. Maybe someone is down about some disappointment that doesn’t threaten them physically, but it makes them sad just the same. 

By the same token, prayer is just as necessary when things go well. We are created in God’s image. Would we want to hear from our kids only when things go wrong? (I know most of us do, but do we WANT to?) No, we wouldn’t, and although God is more patient than the best parents in all creation, he’d still like some good occasionally. 

So we thank God for our son’s being chosen to play varsity basketball. We thank Him for our daughter getting a big role in the school play. We thank Him for bringing a romance into our lives, a new home, or a new baby.

Life is full of good things. Some days more than others, but they are there. Just as we ask God for what we need, we should also thank Him for what He has already done and praise Him for who He is.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
One day, Jesus answered a question about which of the Ten Commandments was the most important by adding two more. 

Rather than choosing from among the ten, He added, 

“Love the Lord, your God with all your heart…” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” 
(Matthew 22:36:40, Mark 12:30:31, Luke 10:27). 

His rationale was that by keeping these two commandments, you were naturally keeping the other ten. 
Jesus taught us that praying for someone is an act of love. Advocating to God on behalf of someone in need is a beautiful expression of your love for that person and your love AND trust for God. 

Defining Love
Before we identify our neighbors, what did Jesus mean by “love” your neighbor? What may constitute acts of love? Here are just a few examples:

•    Helping a neighbor clean up after a storm wrecks their yard or house 
•    Watching someone’s house while they are away on vacation
•    Bringing flowers to a new mom struggling with post-partum depression
•    Giving money, food, or time to a homeless person
•    Driving out of your way to drop off a friend who has had too much to drink
•    Donating money or time to a charity organization
•    Serving meals at a homeless shelter
•    Donating blood or blood platelets
•    Holding a door for someone
•    Letting someone go ahead of you in line in traffic or at the grocery store
•    Taking a picture of a group of tourists, so the whole group can be in the picture
•    Sitting with a friend in the waiting room while a loved one is in surgery
•    Driving an elderly neighbor to a medical appointment or the grocery store
•    Volunteering to tutor an adult in reading
•    Praying for someone

Any time you give freely of yourself in the service of another person or group of people, you are showing love. In any situation, what constitutes an act of love depends on what is happening. That is, you show your love by fulfilling a specific need for the situation. 

Who Is My Neighbor?
In using the word 'neighbor', Jesus did not intend to be exclusive.  When He said to love your neighbor, He meant any other person or group, including, but not limited to, the people who live next door. It is safe, then, to assume Jesus meant to define “neighbor” as any individual or group of individuals who live on the same planet as you do. You do not need to:

•    Know them
•    Agree with them
•    Commit to a long-term relationship with them
•    Look like them
•    Speak the same language as them
•    Worship the same way as they do
•    Be richer or poorer or just as rich or poor as they are
•    Live in the same town, state, country, continent, or hemisphere
•    Solve all their problems
•    Solve ANY of their problems
•    Be successful in helping (Your sincere effort is blessed.)
•    Endanger yourself 

To love your neighbor as yourself, all you really need to do is whatever you can for whomever you can. 

As Yourself?
This is Jesus’ way of telling us we should love ourselves. God loves us unconditionally. He made us and knows us better than we know ourselves. 

If He loves us and we don’t love ourselves, then we're far too hard on ourselves. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve and grow, especially in our faith, but God loves you right now as you are.

Even those of us with self-esteem issues still look out for, take care of, and pray (at least a little) for ourselves.
Jesus wants us to do the same for anyone we meet; to look out for, take care of, and pray for our neighbor.

He wants us to serve them and help them if they need it. Prayer does both.