I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT)
“Dear Lord,” the prayer began. The patron saint continued, “Thank you for Jim. Please help Jim to take his faith seriously like I do. Please make him a ‘good Christian’ as I am. Please make Jim realize that the 10 percent in tithe he pays is not enough – as I pay 12. Lord, make him more like me. Amen.” The prayer was over. The old patron saint smiled at the thought of his prayer. He had let the whole room know that he was the standard upon which Christians should be judged. He was smug. He was self-righteous. He was sinning.
Yes, this is a fictional prayer. But it’s based on the Scriptures. The religious elite of Jesus’ time used to pray like this. They would tout their own holiness while bashing the short-comings of others. It’s no wonder Jesus had to teach His disciples how to pray a real, honest, respectful, loving prayer. (See the Lord’s Prayer) Prayer shouldn’t be all about us.
But, there’s more to the story about how we pray. It’s also about who we are supposed to be praying for. As the Apostle Paul states, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.” This makes things a bit more difficult. It should be easy to pray for those who are suffering through a disease, hardships, job loss, or other life-disasters. Many of us have been trained from early on to pray for those people. But, what about the people that truly irritate us? What about the people on this earth that slaughter innocent humans? What about our country’s enemies? What about those who have sinned against us? According to the Bible, we should be praying for these people as well. So, how do we pray for them? We ask God to intercede on their behalf. Intercession is a complicated concept, but it basically means that we ask God to step into their life and help them. They may not know God, so we ask Him to introduce Himself and give them assistance in the process. Additionally, Paul tells us to “give thanks for them.” In other words, we ask God to bless them. We recognize them as a sinner, just like us. We give thanks that God sees value in them, and so do we. We pray for their salvation. We pray they come to know Christ as their Savior. In short, we pray for anyone and everyone. We don’t get to pick and choose.