"I'll pray for you."

“OK, wow, I’ll pray for you.” Fewer words are more powerful, and are spoken more often so tritely. “I’ll pray for you.” What do we mean by “for”? I’ll pray FOR you?

Our default is to think that praying FOR another means praying ALONGSIDE them - essentially repeating what the other person has asked for, longing for, etc. This is not wrong, in and of itself. But the most powerful prayers in Scripture are those that “stand in the gap” for others. These are not “alongside” prayers, but “in the stead of” prayers. 

Our minds might go to Moses, in Exodus 32. While the people waited for Moses to return from the mountain, they should have prayed, but instead turned to idolatry. So instead Moses prays for the people, even while they are dancing and prancing around the golden calf, within earshot of the party. He prays for them while they, in their idolatrous stupor, are unable to pray for themselves as they should. 

This doesn’t keep Moses from breaking the tablets in anger and executing judgment and discipline later. Prayer doesn’t turn Moses into a wimp. In fact, prayer is the most strong and courageous and self-giving thing he could do: he protects his own by providing atonement for them, through prayer. 

Note Moses’ first request, v. 11-14: the glory of God, in the people. Does this remind you of the first and most vital request of any other important prayers in Scripture (cf. Matt. 6:9)?

Moses acts with self-giving strength, by placing himself between God and the people, in prayer - by asking that God’s name would be hallowed in them, not tarnished. 

When we pray this way, we may pray exactly as the other has requested, or the exact opposite. Sometimes it’s hard to know. 

But regardless, when we pray this way, we are walking in the footprints of Jesus, who Moses is a picture of. We are saved and kept because he stood in the gap for us on the cross, and before that prayed for us, in John 17, while we were yet still dead in our sins, that we would be kept until the end. We owe our perseverance to the Father’s glorifying Himself by saying yes to His Son’s prayer for us. 

And now our prayers for each other enter into that one prayer of Jesus, that Moses prefigured. Imagine entering heaven, and seeing how others were kept by God, by means of answering your prayers for them. Prayer like this is glorious, and powerful. And not trite.