It is every Christian’s duty to pray for others, as well as for himself.
Now prayer is a duty founded on natural religion; the very heathens never neglected it, though many Christian heathens amongst us do; and it is so essential to Christianity, that you might as reasonably expect to find a living man without breath, as a true Christian without the spirit of prayer and supplication.
Thus, no sooner was St. Paul converted, but “behold he prayeth,” saith the Lord Almighty. And thus will it be with every child of God, as soon as he becomes such: prayer being truly called the natural cry of the new-born soul.
For in the heart of every true believer there is a heavenly tendency, a divine attraction, which as sensibly draws him to converse with God, as the lodestone attracts the needle.
A deep sense of their own weakness, and of Christ’s fullness; a strong conviction of their natural corruption, and of the necessity of renewing grace; will not let them rest from crying day and night to their Almighty Redeemer, that the divine image, which they lost in Adam, may through his all-powerful mediation, and the sanctifying operation of his blessed spirit, be begun, carried on, and fully perfected both in their souls and bodies.
Thus earnest, thus importunate, are all sincere Christians in praying for themselves: but then, not having so lively, lasting, and deep a sense of the wants of their Christian brethren, they are for the most part too remiss and defective in their prayers for them.
Whereas, was the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and did we love our neighbor in that manner, in which the Son of God our savior loved us, and according to his command and example, we could not but be as importunate for their spiritual and temporal welfare, as for our own; and as earnestly desire and endeavor that others should share in the benefits of the death and passion of Jesus Christ, as we ourselves.
Let not any one think, that this is an uncommon degree of charity; an high pitch of perfection, to which not everyone can attain. For, if we are all commanded to “love our neighbor (that is every man) even as ourselves,” nay to “lay down our lives for the brethren;” then, it is the duty of all to pray for their neighbors as much as for themselves, and by all possible acts and expressions of love and affection towards them, at all times, to show their readiness even to lay down their lives for them, if ever it should please God to call them to it.
Our blessed Savior, as “he hath set us an example, that we should follow his steps” in everything else, so hath he more especially in this: for in that divine, that perfect and inimitable prayer (recorded in the 17th of St. John) which he put up just before his passion, we find but few petitions for his own, though many for his disciples welfare: and in that perfect form which he has been pleased to prescribe us, we are taught to say, not MY, but “OUR Father,” thereby to put us in mind, that, whenever we approach the throne of grace, we ought to pray not for ourselves alone, but for all our brethren in Christ.
George Whitefield, from his sermon Intercession every Christian’s Duty