As we pray for others we seek to experience a sense of empathy and solidarity with the people we bring before God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian Saint who lived through Nazi Germany said that in prayer, "I move into the other man's place. I enter his life...his guilt and distress. I am afflicted by his sins and his infirmity." Bonhoeffer believed that this sense of identity with the other is the necessary motivating force that would lead us to "act upon and affect the lives of men and women throughout the world."
Prayer is much more powerful when it moves away from reminding God what his job is, ‘heal all the sick people’, ‘make the world peaceful’ . These prayers put everything in God's hands and allow us to sit passively aside, waiting for God to act. These prayers ignore the reality that we are God's hands, feet, and voice in the world. God works through us and in is in the world. We must always seek in prayer to be a part of God’s work. Our prayers should ask for empowerment to do things ourselves. We should pray that we will have the courage to take actions against war, that we will take the time to comfort the sick with our own presence, that we will work to create systems of justice that will alleviate poverty and hunger, and that we will dedicate our lives to transforming our communities, nation, and the world to reflect God’s essence of life, love, compassion and justice.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer prayed so that he, acting as one of God's agents, would be motivated to change things in the world himself. He realized that instead of us waiting for God to act, God waits for us to act. And prayer on behalf of others is the means by which we stir up the compassionate response that drives us to take action.