At some point in my faith walk, the Lord put it on my heart to keep a prayer list.
The list started out quite short – family, close friends, people I knew well from church or work. But over time, it started to grow. I began to add those whom He impressed upon me, whether I knew them personally or not. Even some people I did not particularly like.
Back in the day, I wrote the names down on a small piece of paper and kept the list by my work desk so that, during short breaks, I might mention a name or two to God for His special attention and care that day. But God continued to put more and more names on my heart for me to add to the list. The writing got progressively smaller, and the paper began to fill up with tiny names.
Then names began to fill up the blank pages in the front and back of my Bible. Today, the list is kept on my personal electronic device, and is usually far too long to pray in one sitting. As someone has put it, it contains all the people that God has placed upon my heart throughout life, now living or dead, from minister to magistrate, both friend and foe. It seems that once you get on the list, you never drop off, as God, who lives outside of time, can answer prayers even in retrospect.
For some names, I make specific petitions. For others, I express gratitude and thanks, and just ask to give them a blessing, and may the Holy Spirit descend upon them.
God wants us to pray to Him for others. It is how He operates in the kingdom of heaven and is how He operated with King Solomon.
The Lord appeared to king Solomon the night of the temple dedication. Solomon had prayed for his future offspring and nation. He strongly suspected that there would be times when his descendant kings and their subjects would turn away from the Lord to chase the temptations of other idols, false gods, and pleasures. He feared they would forget the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into this good land of plenty. And Solomon knew that the Lord would then be forced to allow hardship to come to them in order to bring them back to their senses. These hardships could be in the form of drought, pests, disease, or warfare, and would be permitted to shake the people out of their stubborn unbelief to turn their hearts back to the one true God.
12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:12-15 (NKJV)
In the New Testament, after the Holy Spirit had come upon the Jewish believers at Pentecost, God then picked Cornelius to be the first of the Gentiles to receive the same. Now why did He pick Cornelius?
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Acts 10:1-2 (NKJV)
Cornelius, a Roman centurion, was chosen by God because he was generous to the poor and because he prayed. He was a believer in God and became a believer in Jesus Christ as well, as Peter was led by the Spirit to share the gospel with him. The Holy Spirit then came down as He did at Pentecost, confirming that God had indeed given the gospel of salvation to the Gentiles along with the Jews. Prayer and generosity are apparently very important in God’s eyes.
King Solomon made it a priority to dedicate the new temple with sin sacrifices and with prayer. God heard his prayer and promised to do His part to bring about an eternal blessing for Israel. When they strayed, He promised to bring them back to Him in love, only resorting to hardship when necessary, for their eternal benefit.
God wants to hear from us in prayer and has promised to listen to us when we seek His face. He also wants us to listen to Him as we make it a priority to spend time in His word. He will gently lead us and guide us through all the challenges of life and is especially pleased whenever we focus on the needs of others with our prayers and good works.
Father God, teach us to be especially pleasing to You in our prayer life and in our generosity towards others, acting for the kingdom and for Your glory. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.