And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. - Ephesians 6:18
I remember when serving at a children's Bible camp, a young leader came to me and asked me my thought on Ephesians 6 about praying for "all people." He said to me in all honesty, "does that mean that I really need to pray for all Christians?" I am not sure about his hesitation, perhaps some christians hurt him, or some christians seemed so different that he did not want to pray for them. Yet our Lord's command is clear as an exhortation for us as believers to pray for all the Lord's people. Sometimes we pray specifically for individuals in the body of Christ but do not have the faith to pray for the entire Church of God on earth. In the early Church Didache letter there is a wonderful prayer given as an example for after Communion, part of it reads: "Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it." What a wonderful way to pray at times for the entire Church world-wide. God see's His Church as One and we should attempt to see it this way also. Consider praying in this way at times to help strengthen the whole body of believers, God will hear such prayers.
The other reason why we might find it hard to pray for all peoples is that we have an ought against someone. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, "I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me." It is very hard to honestly pray for a believer that has hurt us and still hold a grudge or hurt against him or her. This is not a prayer that heals but would actually be more of a condemnation, like "Lord, give them what they deserve." or "Lord, dismantle their ministry or Church." Rather we should pray: "Lord, I sincerly love this believer and desire them to be blessed as if I would pray for myself. I pray you would help them overcome all sin in their live, be preserved for the heavenly kingdom and be fruitful here on earth." If we persisted in such prayer for a believer seeking the good of others and not ourselves and praying as if praying for ourselves, we would see a healing of hurt in our life. Forgiveness requires forgetting and seeing our sins as much worse then the offender. This verse is actually a test for us in our Christian walk, are we able to pray for all believers in the world with a clean conscience and holding nothing against them. Our Lord Jesus on the cross was able to pray for all without guile or sin, he pleading for the entirety of humanity. Lastly, the verse tells us to "keep on praying" meaning that we should not give up, or just pray once, but continually pray for the work of God and people of God in the earth.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon