This is the 31st blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.” The first blog is “Why Pray?” and the previous blog is Intercessory Prayer.
“Do not pass any opportunity for praying for any man; either at his request or at the request of his relatives, friends, of those who esteem him, or of his acquaintances. The Lord looks favorably upon the prayer of our love, and upon our boldness before him. Besides this, prayer for others is very beneficial to the man himself who prays for others; it purifies the heart, strengthens faith and hope in God, and enkindles our love for God and our neighbor.” (St. John of Kronstadt, MY LIFE IN CHRIST, p 202)
St. Silouan (d. 1938AD) advocates that whenever we grieve for someone because of their problems, losses, failures or sins, we should not leave them to our pity or even compassion but should then be moved to pray for them. Our feelings for others should move us to pray for them, to intercede with God to have mercy on them. The drowning man is not saved by our compassion for him but by our taking action to save him. The hungry man is not fed by our pity for him but by our giving him food. So too our grief for others, a wonderful sign of a compassionate heart, becomes love when we are moved to pray for the one who has caused us to feel grief.
“… I realized that when the Lord gives us to grieve over someone, and the desire to pray for him, it means that the Lord would be gracious unto that man. Therefore, if it befalls you to sorrow over anyone, you must pray for that person, because the Lord for your sake would be gracious unto him. So do you pray then. The Lord will hear you, and you will glorify God.” (ST SILOUAN THE ATHONITE, p 494)
Our concern and compassion for others often rises in our hearts just from the daily experiences of life we see others go through. Realistically we know that we are not protected from all sorrows, we cannot avoid all grief, even through prayer and fasting. People while they were engaged in prayer, in churches, have been attacked and martyred. So our prayers also must ask for the strength to endure suffering.
“The Christian life is to be lived amidst the trouble and the turmoil of life. When we pray for others, it is proper to pray using this perspective. We are not to pray that others escape from the problems and the cares of the world. Rather, we are to pray that others may face life with courage, strength, and power. The Christian life is not a life in which troubles are evaded. Rather, the Christian life is a life where we face our problems and conquer them with the help of Christ.” (John Mummert, ABIDING IN JESUS CHRIST, p 69)
“The brethren said, ‘In what way ought we to pray before God?’ The old man said, ‘For the repentance of sinners, and the finding of the lost, and the bringing near of those who are afar off, and friendliness towards those who do us harm, and love towards those who persecute us, and a sorrowful care for those who provoke God to wrath. And if a man doeth these things truly and with a penitent mind, the sinners will often gain life, and the living soul will be redeemed. … Now the prayer which our Lord delivered to us for the needs of the body is one which applieth the whole community, and it was not uttered for the sake of those who are strangers to the world, and with whom the pleasures of the body are held in contempt.” (E. Wallis Budge, THE PARADISE OF THE HOLY FATHERS vol 2, pp 333)