Joel Osteen — Pray for Others
I want to talk to you today about "Praying for others". It's good to pray for yourself, pray for your dreams, pray for wisdom, ask God to help you overcome difficulties. That's important, but don't stop there. You have the ability to help someone else reach their destiny, and there are people God has put in your life that won't become who they were created to be without you praying. They don't have the faith to accomplish their dreams. They won't break the addiction. They won't overcome the challenge without you stepping up and asking God on their behalf.
The scripture tells us in James to, "Pray one for another," and you don't have to go to them physically. I'm talking about in your private time, not just focusing on your needs, your goals, your dreams. Take time every day to pray for others. Look around at who's in your life, that neighbor that seems down, that coworker that's struggling, that person you heard about that has cancer. That didn't come up by accident. God brought them across your path. He's counting on you to lift them up.
"Well, Joel, I have my own problems, my own issues, my own dreams. I need somebody to pray for me". When you pray for others, you are sowing a seed for God to help you. When Job was overcome with difficulties, his world turned upside down, he understood this principle. He didn't just pray for himself. He went out and prayed for his friends. He turned his focus away from his own needs and started praying for others. The scripture says, "When Job prayed for his friends, his health was restored". Could it be if you would take time to pray for others, then what you're struggling with would turn around? Your health, your dreams, your breakthroughs would show up?
Paul tells us in Galatians to "Bear one another's burdens". We weren't meant to carry the load on our own. We need each other. Life can be heavy. People are lonely. They've been through disappointments. They're dealing with illnesses. And be hurting on the inside. They have stress and pressure that we know nothing about, and when you pray for them, it helps lighten the load. Your prayers cause the angels to go to work. Chains that are holding them back begin to loosen. Depression that's trying to sour their life, when you speak victory over them, the forces of darkness begin to lose their grip, and it may not happen overnight, but your prayer is making a difference.
Your prayer may be what's keeping them going. They don't even know you're praying. You may not get any credit. "But what you do in secret," the scripture says, "God will reward you in the open," and when I meet people, the favorite thing they tell me is not, "I like listening to you. You encourage me. You help me". That's good, I'm grateful, but my favorite thing is when they say, "Joel, I'm praying for you". When you pray for someone, you're not just sending good wishes. You're not just saying, "Good luck, I hope it goes well for you". Prayer moves the hands that rule the world. Prayer causes a God who created the universe to make things happen that we could never make happen.
In the book of revelation, John described what he saw in heaven, how there were angels all around the throne, constantly singing, worshiping, saying, "Holy, holy, holy". But in chapter 8, there was silence in heaven for 30 minutes. During this time, an angel came to the altar with a jar of incense, which represents the prayers coming up from the earth. Verse 4 says: "The smoke of the incense together with the prayers of the saints went up before God".
Here's how powerful prayer is. In heaven, there was all this then all of the sudden, the angels stopped singing. The heavenly hosts were silenced. What could be so important that heaven came to a standstill? Was something wrong? Was there an emergency? No, all of heaven stopped to hear the prayers coming up from God's people. Your prayers go up like incense before the throne of God, and you may think, "Nobody's listening". Voices whisper, "God's not concerned about you. You're wasting your time". No, when you pray, just imagine, the angels get quiet. The musicians stop playing. Gabriel says to God, "I've silenced everything because I hear a prayer coming up from one of your children. Somebody believes you can do the impossible. Somebody's counting on you to heal a friend from cancer, to turn a child around, to break an addiction".
When you pray, powerful things happen. All of heaven stops. Comes to attention. That's when supernatural things take place. When you pray, Red Seas are parted. When you pray, Compaq Centers show up. When you pray, you can overcome those illnesses. I'm asking you to not just pray for yourself, pray for others. Use this power to help somebody else reach their highest potential.
In Acts chapter 12, king Herod was against the church. He had not only arrested believers, but he had James killed, and when he saw how much this pleased the people, he was planning on doing the same thing to Peter. He arrested Peter and put him in the deepest dungeon, the most secure place. But on the night before Peter was to go to trial, verse 5 says: "The church was earnestly praying for Peter". The believers had gathered in a house. They spent the night asking God to help their friend, to somehow bring him out, to make a way. While they were praying, in the middle of the night, an angel showed up at the prison and woke Peter up.
Peter wasn't praying. He was sleeping. Maybe he was too tired, too discouraged, but he had friends who were praying. When the angel woke him up, the chains fell off his wrists. They walked past the first set of guards. Nobody saw them. They came to the big iron gates. They opened on their own accord. Peter's life was spared. What's interesting is the scripture says specifically that people were praying for Peter, but it doesn't mention that anyone was praying for James. They were in the same circumstances but had totally different results, and while we rejoice over what God did for Peter, I wonder if James would've had people praying for him, maybe he wouldn't have lost his life. Maybe the angel would've shown up. Maybe Herod would've changed his mind if somebody had been praying.
My challenge is, don't let there be a James in your life. All your family, your friends, your relatives, your co-workers, they should be Peters. Cover them in prayer. Ask God to strengthen them, to help them, to protect them. Pray that they'll accomplish their dreams. Pray that they'll leave their mark on this generation. Your prayer can make the difference. Your prayer can cause the you go to God on somebody else's behalf, heaven comes to attention. God is concerned about what concerns you, and some people don't have the faith to believe on their own. They may not be living right. They don't think they deserve it. But because you're honoring God, because you took the them for your sake.
You have a gift. You can help someone else succeed. On their own, they can't do it. On their own, they're a James. But when you pray, prison doors open. The addiction will be broken. The right people will show up. Are you using your gift? Are you praying for others? Life is too short to live only thinking about my dreams, my goals, my needs. That's a shallow way to live. You'll never be truly fulfilled that way because you need other people to stand in faith with you, and when you develop this habit of praying for others, God will make sure there will always be plenty of people praying for you. The scripture says, "One can chase a thousand, but two can put ten thousand to flight". You are ten times more powerful when you have somebody praying for you.
That's why every morning, I pray for your dreams, I pray for your goals, for your family, for health, for freedom, for abundance. I pray for everyone that's a part of our ministry. I may not know your name, but God does. And I'm praying for you. Some nights, before I go to bed, I'll go out in my backyard and pray for all the people that are hurting in the world.
My brother Paul just returned from Iraq, where he was operating on people that were injured in the war. It's very horrific, so much heartache and pain. I believe God brought those my brother, not to just feel sorry for them, not to just think, "That's too bad," but to say, "God, show them your mercy. Heal their wounds. Protect them, let them see your goodness". You don't know. Your prayer may protect a child from a mortal wound. Your prayer may keep an accident from happening. Or your prayer may lift a heavy burden from a family that's endured incredible pain.
I was in another city recently and this gentleman he was a foreigner, dressed very nice. He told how he and his family watch our program, how they've learned about God and it's helped them to overcome some difficulties. I thanked him for taking the time to tell me. As I was leaving, I said, almost in passing, "I'm going to be praying for you". He looked at me so genuinely, with these tears starting to come down his cheeks. He said, "Why would you pray for me? You don't even know me. I don't come from your same faith". I said, "None of that matters. I know God brought you across my path".
See, you don't meet people by accident. God puts people in our lives. He causes us to notice certain people. Maybe at the grocery store you see that person that looks down. They look lonely. Don't see them as a James. Turn them into a Peter. Under your breath, "Lord, bless them, strengthen them, help them to live in victory".
For years, my mother prayed for an entertainer here in town. She would see his name up on the different marquees where he was playing. My mother had never met him, but she read how his parents were missionaries growing up. He came from a strong family of faith. In his teenage years, he started running with the wrong crowd and ended up on drugs, and instead of playing in churches, he was playing in bars and in clubs. My mother could've thought, "Too bad, nothing I can do about it, he's off course".
Instead, every time she saw his name, under her breath, "God, help him to get back on course. God, help him to fulfill his destiny," just a simple prayer. Didn't look like anything was happening. Looked like she was wasting her breath. But when you pray, things are changing. Behind the scenes, God is at work. Your prayers are going up to the throne like incense, and one Sunday, out of the blue, that gentleman showed up at Lakewood at the old sanctuary. He sat in the very back. Someone recognized him and told my mother. She went back and gave him a hug and told how she'd been praying for him all these years.
That day was a turning point. He felt loved and accepted, and it was a few months later that our friend Bill Nash gave his first Christian concert there at Lakewood, and for the last 30 years, he's been using his gifts and talents for the Lord. Maybe that wouldn't have happened if my mother had not prayed. Maybe Bill would still be off course, still going down the wrong path, if she had not gone before God on his behalf. "Well, Joel, she's just one person". Yes, but you may be the one that God's counting on.
Your faith may be what causes that young lady at the office to change her life. Instead of talking about her, instead of judging her, looking at all she's done wrong, why don't you take time to pray for her? Talking about her is not going to help her improve, but prayer will break the chains that are holding her back, and every morning, after you thank God for the day, after you ask him for your dreams, for your needs, take time to go to God in prayer for her. Maybe nobody's praying. Maybe she's a James. You need to turn her into a Peter. You don't have to tell her. You don't have to make a big scene. But in your private time, ask God to help her. The scripture calls this, "Standing in the gap for people".
Some people are too far of course to ever get back on their own. They're too discouraged. They have too many obstacles. It's going to take you and me praying for them. God said in Ezekiel 22, "I looked for someone to build up the wall and stand in the gap so I wouldn't have to destroy the land, but I couldn't find anyone". Back in those days, cities had huge walls around them to protect them from the enemy. But at times, there would be something happened that created a gap. Now the enemy could easily come in. So they would have an armed soldier, one of their most powerful warriors, stand in that gap until the wall could be repaired.
People all around us have broken-down walls. Like Bill, they've gotten off course, a relationship didn't work out, they're fighting an illness, depression, loneliness. There's a breach in their wall. God is asking you, "Will you stand in the gap? Will you cover them while they're down? Will you not let the enemy overtake them"? When you see somebody in need, somebody fighting a battle, don't be passive. Don't think, "Oh, that's too bad. I feel sorry for them". Be that warrior that stands in the gap. Speak victory over their life. Remind the forces of darkness that they cannot have them.
The right attitude is, "If you mess with them, you're messing with me, and no weapon formed against me or them is going to prosper". Lift them up in prayer. Let them know that they're not alone. Sometimes it's just a simple text, "Hey, I'm praying for you. You're going to get through this". That's all it takes to lift their spirits.
I talked to a family last week. Their 20-year-old daughter had an aneurysm and suddenly died. The father told me through tears, "I don't think I can go on. The pain is not letting up". His wall is down. There's a breach, and yes, I felt sorry. Yes, it broke my heart. But feeling sorry is not enough. That's when you have to make it your mission to stand in the gap. Every morning, "Lord, strengthen that family. Heal their wounds. Give them beauty for those ashes".
One time, the Israelites got off course. After all God had done for them, delivering them from slavery, parting the Red Sea, giving them food in the desert, at one point, they started worshiping a golden calf, having wild parties, getting drunk, being immoral. God was angry. He was going to destroy them, but Moses went up on a mountain. For 40 days, he fasted and prayed, asking God for mercy, not for himself, but for the Israelites. The psalmist said, "God would have destroyed them had Moses not stood in the gap for them".
You may know people that are off course, a friend, a family member, a coworker. They're making poor choices. They know better, but they're doing it anyway. That's where the Israelites destroy these 2 million people, but because 1 man stood in the gap, God changed his mind. Will you do like Moses and stand in the gap for the people around you that are not doing right? It's easy to criticize, find fault. You can be the one that makes a difference.
I want the psalmist to be able to put my name in that scripture, your name in it. "God would've destroyed them had Robert not stood in the gap, had Julie not stood in the gap, had those people at Lakewood not stood in the gap," and I've learned if you're not standing in the gap, most likely you'll be standing in judgment. I've made up my mind, I'm going to be a gap stander. I'm going to be a people lifter. I'm going to take time every day to help pray people into their destiny.
Matthew chapter 8, a Roman army general came to see Jesus. He was a centurion, the commander of a hundred troops, a very influential and well-respected man. He said to Jesus, "My servant is sick and in so much pain". He traveled a great distance, not to ask something for himself, not for his wife, not for another general, but for his servant. One translation says, "I have this slave that's sick". Well-respected, influential man was standing in the gap for someone that most people back then would've written off. They bought and sold slaves all the time, but this commander was different. He loved this servant.
I can imagine when he headed out to see Jesus, people asked him, "Why are you going? Do you need healing? Do you need a miracle? Is something wrong with you"? He said, "No, I'm going on behalf of my servant". He was standing in the gap for the least of these, for someone that society would've written off, said, "They're not important". When he arrived, Jesus said to him, "I haven't seen this much faith in all of Israel". Jesus spoke, and his servant was healed.
What's interesting is this centurion wasn't a Jew. He didn't come from the same faith, yet Jesus said, "You have more faith than all these people that have been around me". That shows us that God is not looking at what family you come from, how you were raised, how religious you are. What gets God's attention is when you're concerned about the least of these. When you stand in the gap for the less fortunate, for people that have been dealt an unfair hand, God calls that, "Great faith".
That's when he'll show up and in the scripture, Joseph was falsely accused and put in prison. He'd been there for many years and there were two other main people with him: Pharaoh's butler and his baker, and one night, the butler had a dream and Joseph was able to interpret it. He told the butler he was going to get out of prison and be restored to his position. So grateful for Joseph and all of his help. Joseph said, "Do me a favor. When you get out, remind the Pharaoh that I'm still in here," and just like Joseph said, the butler got out. He was restored to his position, but he forgot all about Joseph. Joseph helped him. Now, when he needed help, the butler was nowhere to be found.
All of us have been where this butler was. Somebody helped us. Somebody gave us a good break. Somebody prayed for us when we were down. They stood in the gap for us. Now, let's don't be like that butler. Stand in the gap for somebody else. You're blessed, now be a blessing. God answered your prayers, now pray for somebody else.
The truth is, none of us got to where we are on our own. I had parents praying for me, speaking faith into my destiny. I'm seeing favor today because people stood in the gap for me. My siblings and I, we never left for school in the morning without my mother praying for protection, praying for favor over us. Now, I not only pray for my children, I pray for my grandchildren. They're not even here yet. I pray for my great-grandchildren, for my seed. They may not realize it, they've already been covered in prayer. They're going to see good breaks, favor, mercy because I took time to pray.
After David died, Solomon's son wasn't making good choices. He got off course. God was going to take the throne away from him, but God said to him, "Solomon, for your father David's sake, I will show you mercy and I will not do it. That's how powerful it is when you not only live a life that honors God, but you pray for your seed, you pray for your children.
Victoria, as a little girl, would go back to Georgia to see her grandmother. When she'd wake up early in the morning, before anyone else was awake, she would see her grandmother outside, under a tree, on her knees, praying, covering her family, covering her children, Victoria never dreamed she'd be in the ministry. We never dreamed we'd be this blessed, this fulfilled. It's because people took time to pray. Somebody did it for us. Somebody did it for you.
Now let's do it for somebody else. Look around at who's in your life. Are there some James, people that without you praying won't fulfill their destiny? I'm asking you to turn them into a Peter. Make it your mission to pray for them. Stand in the gap. Ask God to bless them. If you'll do this, I believe is going to come back to you. Like Job, as you pray for others, you're going to see your prayers answered, your healing come, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus' name.