How to Pray for Someone Else: Intercessory Prayer

by Emily Vanden Heuvel

When did the gravity of praying for someone else really hit you? I was visiting a friend, a young woman in her 40’s, who just had open-heart surgery. As I sat near her bedside, I felt helpless. I couldn't take away her discomfort and I felt overwhelmed with worry for her recovery. But while I sat there, I decided to pray for her. Praying for someone else is called intercession—we are praying to God on behalf of another person. We can go to God with these intercessory prayers with confidence, knowing that God will hear us, because Jesus Christ first interceded for us (Romans 8:31-39). God expects us to pray for others and his Word gives us many examples of intercessory prayer:

God uses our prayers

When a person requests prayer for themselves or someone else, they’re asking us to pray on their behalf for things like physical healing from injury or illness, or restoration in broken relationships, or the strength to persevere in faith in the midst of hardship. In some mysterious way, God uses our prayers to accomplish his will. Through our prayers, he shows his power in the world around us.

We see this powerful display of God’s work through the prayers of faithful believers in Acts 12. Peter had been arrested and was facing execution. “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). An angel appeared and released Peter from his shackles right between two sleeping guards; then the angel led Peter out of the prison right under the noses of the other sentries standing guard. This is a beautiful picture of an answered prayer.

God continues to hear our prayers. The ReFrame Ministries Prayer Ministry receives regular updates from those we pray for. Dee (name changed for privacy) requested prayer for her boyfriend, Jay, who was in the hospital fighting a bad infection of Legionnaires disease.

Here is Dee’s update:

“Prayer Team, I want to tell you about a miracle! My boyfriend was on a respirator and dialysis machine, his organs were shutting down, and was in a coma for about 2 weeks. My pastor came in regularly and I prayed for my boyfriend everyday. You all prayed for him and so many others prayed. God was with us the whole time. I totally felt his presence. I'm usually a bit of an anxious person, but God calmed me, and I thanked him for all the small improvements along the way. The doctors said that Jay’s recovery is a miracle. He is no longer on dialysis, walking again and should make a full recovery. Thanks be to God who never left us through this whole ordeal. We are so very grateful for your prayers on our behalf.”

Praying in Faith and Love

Intercessory prayer is an act of love and faith. We love others by praying for them and trust that God will answer. Mary Kate Morse, in her book A Guidebook to Prayer, encourages us to intercede:

The scriptures tell us to pray for others. So we pray. We pray in faith. We are called to pray, but not take responsibility for answers. So pray fervently, with hope, with specific desires, and with confidence in a God who loves us and died for us and the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us. We pray urgently and freely for the needs of our friends, family, and this world. Intercessory prayer is a prayer of participation in God’s will…Intercession is often not a one-time experience. Prayers and intercession are characterized by a persistence to seek God's will. Continue with prayer as often as it's practical or as the person desires or the need continues. (pp. 196-197)

They say love is action. When we pray for someone who is desperate for healing, lost in addiction, or held captive by fear, we act in love on their behalf, trusting in faith that God will answer our prayers and meet their needs in his perfect timing. We can trust God to answer our prayers, but sometimes we don't always like his answers. If you would like to read more about understanding God’s responses to our prayers click here: Why Isn't God Answering my Prayer?

What should I say in my prayers?

So what is a good way to pray for someone else? How do we intercede for others? While there is no right or wrong way to pray, sometimes it’s hard to know what to say. Below, I have written an example of an intercessory prayer that you can offer on behalf of a loved one. You can use it as a template to write your own prayer: just add the person’s name and their specific concerns.

Dear God,

Thank you for the gift of my loved one. I ask that they may know your will and be obedient to you. Give them clarity, acceptance, and understanding of your purpose for their life. May their faith continue to grow, may they trust in you, and may they know joy in the midst of difficulties and obstacles. I pray they may have a humble heart that seeks forgiveness and allows them to boldly accept your unconditional love. Please give them many opportunities to share your love with others and be a light in dark places. I pray that I can be a source of safety and encouragement for them. Give me the courage to trust that you will protect and lead them. I thank you for their love and care for me. Show me how to love them better.

In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.

I prayed a similar prayer like this one many times for my friend as she recovered from her heart surgery. Your prayers offered on someone else’s behalf are meaningful and powerful. God listens to your prayers even if you don't have the words. So may you be encouraged to boldly intercede for others, knowing that the “prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective” (James 5:16).