If you are praying every day, that is great. If you are praying for a half-hour or even an hour, that’s even better! If you are thanking God for His blessings, if you are asking Him for forgiveness and help in living righteously, if you are asking Him for the things you desire, according to His will, that is wonderful. God loves to hear you pray! Your prayers are precious to Him. “[T]he prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8). God delights to hear you share your thoughts, your attitudes, your feelings, your self with Him.
As your Father listens to your prayers, what does He hear? Does He hear the words I, me, mine and my repeated a lot? If you are like most people, the answer is probably yes. It is natural for the majority of your thoughts and the majority of your prayers to focus on your problems, your needs and your desires.
But the majority of your prayers should be something else.
What is it? Intercessory prayers. Prayers for others.
God and Jesus Christ do this with your prayers. Jesus Christ actually speaks to God on your behalf (Romans 8:34). He spends a lot of time and effort and energy speaking to the Father—not for His own benefit, but for yours. He focuses His mind not on Himself, but on your trials, your difficulties and your requests.
Are you following this example, or are you praying selfishly? James 4:3 shows that one reason your prayers may go unanswered is because they focus too much on yourself.
Selfishness is Satan’s attitude. God’s attitude is selflessness. God is teaching you how to become like Him—how to live the selfless, giving, happy way of life. That’s why He can answer, will answer and loves answering your prayers when you learn to put yourself to the side and focus your energies on other people the way that Christ focuses His energies on you! Think like God, think like Christ, and focus your thoughts and your prayers on others.
Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Obey this command in your prayers, and see what happens. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults [physical sins] one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Take this promise and claim it! Remember it and believe it: Strive to be righteous, pray powerfully for others, and fully expect that prayer to get results!
Notice that this verse does not say, “Pray for yourself that you may be healed.” God specifically says to pray for each other. Praying for others does make a difference! You probably already offer intercessory prayers to some extent. Many young people include, “Heal the sick,” “Bless the Work,” “Help Mr. Flurry,” and other requests like that in their prayers. But it is easy to spend three minutes asking God to help you get the summer job you want—and only three seconds praying for the general well-being of everyone else: “Please help the brethren.”
God gives an excellent symbol of how to pray in Exodus 30:36. He commanded the ancient Israelites to burn incense in the temple every day and told the priests to take the extra step of pulverizing it first. This took time and effort. But beating that incense small made the offering pleasing to God.
In the same way, you need to take extra time and effort to be detailed in your prayers.
The “ingredients” for your prayers should mostly be intercessions: praying for family, friends, acquaintances, ministers, members in your congregation, Church members across the country and around the world, people suffering from diseases or injuries, and an entire world that is suffering terribly. Pray effectually and fervently, for instance, that God’s Work will reach people in the world who are suffering. Each of those lives is just as important—just as filled with troubles and hopes—as your life. Fill your mind and your prayers with those people.
Get this, from the September-October 1969 Good News: “[T]here seems to be a law of prayer that one person praying for another carries more weight with God than one man praying for himself.”
Do you want to see God’s power in action? Do you want your prayers to “avail much”? Then move your mind and heart off yourself and onto the lives of others, and intercede for them! Become experienced at it. Become skilled at it. Pour your heart and mind and compassion and emotion and feeling into it even more than you do when you pray for yourself. And find out just how much your prayers can change not just your life, but also the lives of many others!