This morning I was thinking of all the people in my life I am praying for now. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to encourage someone than letting them know they are in your heart and prayers. I have been reminded several times over the last several months that before offering human advise, I need to pray for my friends and family so that I am first seeking the Lord (Matt. 6:33).

Paul encouraged Timothy this way: “I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” (2 Tim. 1:3) The two things this verse brings up for me is to be grateful for the people the Lord puts in our lives, and to keep bringing them up in prayer to Him. When we pray for others, we submit the way a prayer is answered and the result to the Lord. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

Jesus told us to pray in His name (John 14:13–14). If you do something “in the name of” someone else, it means you do it according to his wishes. Therefore, knowing God and understanding Him is an integral part of prayer. Now we begin to see why praying for others is important. Prayer is not about getting everything we want or keeping others safe, healthy, and problem-free at all times. Prayer is a powerful way in which we get to know our Savior, and it also brings believers together. Effective prayer for others will bring us closer to God, because effective prayer is based on a knowledge of His will (1 John 5:14). It will also bring us closer to others, as we learn more about them and focus on their needs.

We live in a broken world where everything calls us toward selfishness and despair. Sin steals joy, our bodies break down, our plans falter, our dreams die, our resolves weaken, our perspective dims. We are promised suffering (1 Peter 4:12), persecution (John 15:202 Timothy 3:12), and trials of all sorts (James 1:2-3).

When encouragement is absent from the life of a church people will feel unloved, unimportant, useless, and forgotten. God knows His people are in need of grace-filled reminders, which is why He calls us to encourage each other every day until His Son returns. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13).

Praying for others is important because it fulfills a New Testament command. We are to pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1). We are to pray for government leaders (1 Timothy 2:2). We are to pray for the unsaved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). We are to pray for fellow Christians (Ephesians 6:18). We are to pray for ministers of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19–20). We are to pray for the persecuted church (Hebrews 13:3). Praying for others gets our focus off of ourselves and onto the needs around us. As we “carry each other’s burdens,” we “will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Encouragement is shared with the hopes that it will lift someone’s heart toward the Lord, as Paul did in his letter: “I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.” (Col. 4:8) It points out evidences of grace in another’s life to help them see that God is using them. It points us to God’s promises that assure us that all we face is under His control.

Praying for others is recommended as a source of healing (James 5:16) along with confession. James tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The word righteous in the Bible refers to those who have faith and are covered by Jesus’ righteousness (Rom. 3:21–22).

For most of us, praying for others tends to run along these lines: Lord, provide my friend with a job, a car that runs, good health, and safety. If we really know someone well, we might pray for his or her marriage or other relationships. There is nothing wrong with praying for these things; in fact, the Bible encourages us to pray for everything and, doing so, quell our anxieties (Philippians 4:6). It is right to pray for health and for good things to happen (3 John 1:2).

However, most of the prayers recorded in the Bible are of another type. When Jesus was praying for others, He prayed for their faith (Luke 22:32), He prayed against temptation in their lives (Luke 22:40), He prayed for their unity (John 17:11), and He prayed for their sanctification (John 17:17). Paul prayed for the salvation of the lost (Romans 10:1); he prayed that the brothers would stay on the right path (2 Corinthians 13:7); he prayed that believers would be strengthened by the Spirit, rooted and grounded in love, able to comprehend God’s love, and filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14–19). These are all prayers for spiritual blessings; they are all “in Jesus’ name” and according to the Father’s will–prayers that are guaranteed to find a “yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

And after we have lifted up our friends and family members in prayer before the Father, let them know you are praying for them. Ask them if you can pray with them. If the Spirit shares any words to give them, then do so. When someone lets me know that they pray for me, my heart is lifted because I know that they love me, and that they want the best for me, which is exactly what the Lord wants for me. If you aren’t already, begin praying for others today and help to build up the body of Christ. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11)