What’s the work?
To close this series on prayer seems incomplete because the topic of prayer is so wide and diverse. Out of curiosity, I placed the word “prayer” in my browser to see what would pop up.
The first thing my search engine offered was “prayer for healing”. It’s not surprising this would be the first response. There are so many people sick both mentally and physically. Regardless of social standing or political position, sickness places us all on the same level.
“Prayers for strength in difficult times” was third on my list (after “prayer”). There’s so much happening in our world. We’re concerned with wars, terrorism (foreign and domestic), and global warming. We continue to struggle with the COVID pandemic with all its “side effects”—uncertainty, volatility, and insecurity.
The work at hand
At this juncture in both our personal life and in our nation’s history, prayer is critical. What is needed is prayer that is focused on others. More importantly, this type of prayer, intercessory prayer, is centered on God’s will (Matt. 6:10). The result is prayer that is intentional, strategic, and purposeful.
Intercessory prayer begins with our understanding God’s will. God’s will can only be understood through developing a personal relationship with Him.
The man who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end. So did the saints of old, the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets and the believing members of the holy church in all generations. And so must we if we would follow in their train.
The Model Intercessory Prayer
In reviewing prayers of the Bible, the one I like the most is John 17. To me, this is the model for intercessory prayer. We recommend you add it to your future study list.
This prayer comes at the conclusion to the Upper Room discourse of chapters 14-16. It is the closing verse (John 16:33) that introduces this extraordinary prayer: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
First, Jesus prayed for Himself (John 17: 1-5). This however was not a prayer for self but the request that God would be glorified. God is glorified when His name is honored, and praise is given to Him for His works and His ways. Jesus’ work of salvation and glorious resurrection would “finish the work which God had given Jesus to do” (v.4).
Next, Jesus prayed for His Disciples (John 17:6-19). This is called the High Priestly Prayer. These petitions were for the Disciple’s empowerment. Through His parables and teachings Jesus had shared who God was (v. 6, Your name). As they went into a hostile world, Jesus prayed that God would “keep” (guard) them and “sanctified” them (set apart) by God’s truth. Believers today are kept by the same power of God through our faith regardless of the trials we may face (1 Pet. 1:5-7).
Lastly, Jesus prayed for future believers who come to faith through hearing the gospel (John 17:20-26). This petition was for love and unity among Christ’s Church. Christ prayed that believers would experience the same unity He knew with God the Father. This unity would be reflected in the love believers showed to God and to each other.
The Work of Prayer
Jesus’ prayer presents us with an opportunity to “pray outside the box”. Let our prayers focus not only on our needs but the needs of the world around us. We need more prayers for healing (physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational). Every prayer counts as we deal with these difficult times.
Let us expand our prayers beyond the lust of the flesh, eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2:16-17). As we grow in our knowledge of God, may our prayers become more intentional, strategic, and purposeful. As we pray, may God’s will be done, and His name be glorified forever.
 A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man: Tozer’s Profound Prequel to The Pursuit of God