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)]
When a child, I was taught to pray the “Five Fingers of Prayer”—thanks, praise, confession, intercession and petition—as a way of remembering that God came first, others next and me last. A local Christian preschool uses the “Five-Finger Prayer” approach. Often attributed to Pope Francis, it helps little ones remember all of their “God blesses.” When the hands are folded in prayer, the thumb is nearest and reminds the child to pray for the people who are closest to him: his family and BFFs. Next is the index finger—that pointing finger used by teachers everywhere. This finger reminds the child to pray for those who teach. Next is the middle finger, the tallest one, which reminds the child to pray for those in authority: the pastor, the president and other government officials. The fourth finger is the weakest one. With this finger the child remembers those who are helpless, in trouble, or suffering. Finally, the child gets to the pinky and prays for himself. That little finger reminds him of his smallness (and the smallness of his needs) in relation to God’s greatness and the needs of others.
While there are no hard and fast rules about prayer except to believe in it and do it, we are told to pray for all people and to share one another’s burdens. It is both a responsibility and a privilege to lift others’ needs to God in prayer. Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom, Job for his friends, Moses for the Israelites, the early church for the imprisoned Peter, Daniel for his captive nation, Paul for the readers of his letters, and Jesus for His disciples. No special commission or training is needed to become a prayer warrior. We all are called to intercede for others and we have four fingers that remind us to do it.
There is nothing wrong with praying for ourselves. In the Lord’s Prayer, we were taught to ask for our daily needs, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from temptation. The Psalms are filled with pleas for God to intervene in the psalmists’ lives. Hannah, Jabez, David, Paul and even Jesus prayed for themselves. Praying for ourselves brings us into an intimate relationship with God and invites His blessings into our lives. The problem arises when we come to God just for those blessings and never intercede for others. We stop seeing the needs surrounding us, become self-centered, and risk turning God into Santa Claus! While there are five fingers on our hands, when it comes to prayer, only the pinky belongs to us!