"Dear God, You really, REALLY have to take care of Susie! I'm so worried about her! A) Please make her break up with that jerk of a boy friend who's so wrong for her; B) Please get her to go back to college; C) Please find her a decent job to help pay for her tuition, and D) Please get her back to Church on Sunday."
Now obviously you love Susie very much and you trust God very much and God wants you to pray, or intercede for her. But we need to remember that God never changes. He is the Same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Any time we pray, God has known that we would pray, and knows what He will do already. So - why do we intercede for others? And how can intercessory prayer itself make us less anxious?
Prayer is not about changing God. Prayer is about changing us.
Prayer is about changing our understanding. When we open our hearts to our Father and seek His Face, He helps us understand Him, ourselves, and the ones we pray for.
He gives us a deeper understanding of who our God is - how loving, faithful, merciful, and forgiving He is, and an understanding that that is how God is and will be with the people we pray for.
God helps us purify and clarify our prayers for others and our relationships with others by deepening our understanding of their situations and our own participation in them.
Deepening our relationship with a God who is faithful, loving, and merciful deepens our trust in Him and alleviates our anxiety about the people we pray for whom He cares for.
I'm going to share some of Pope Francis' ideas on prayer for others from his book "Open Mind, Faithful Heart."
First of all, he says "we do well to keep in mind that it is God Himself who inspires our prayer; it is the Holy Spirit who suggests to us what the Father wants to hear." Isn't this consoling? God our Father WANTS to hear our voices, wants to converse with us. And the Holy Spirit inspires us to pray for certain people in a certain way. Hasn't it happened to you that sometimes, out of the blue, you feel compelled to pray for someone? That's the Holy Spirit, giving you a nudge.
Also notice that Pope Francis mentions praying to the Father, not to an impersonal Deity. "The prayer of Christians is unavoidably personal. It is person-to-person: we pray to the Father or to the Son or to the Holy Spirit. What is more, each of the Divine Persons relates to us in a different way as we pray." Praying to a personal God calms our hearts. Our Father knows us personally, knows the person we're praying for personally. We are children of a loving Father, and this alone should free us from fear and anxiety before we even begin our prayer.
Normally we pray to the Father by the Son in the Holy Spirit. As we pray to the Father, Christ has a place in our prayer as mediator, as we pray "in the Name of the Lord Jesus." (Col. 3:17.) This means "more than commending ourselves to Jesus, or invoking his name. It means praying with Jesus, as sons and daughters in the Son...This prayer assumes a real connection with Jesus," a connection that is "life-giving, like the branch on the vine." So we call to the Father as Jesus did, "Abba Father."
Jesus himself teaches us how to intercede through the ways he intercedes in Scripture; "he intercedes for Peter so that his faith will not fail....He intercedes so that the Father will send the Holy Spirit...He intercedes for those who crucified him....and he insists that it is only by intercessory prayer that we are able to free persons of evil spirits." If we intercede in the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Jesus, we learn to intercede for others as Jesus did and does still intercede for us. We too pray with hearts full of love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and mercy for others, praying above all for the strengthening of their souls.
And we pray filled with praise and thanksgiving to God. Because we exist and all creation exists. Because we've been given the gift of prayer. Because God watches over His people, cares for His people, and defends His flock. Because God has given us the greatest gift of all, - His Son, who lived, died, and rose for us. When we pray immersed and engulfed in praise of God, our prayer relaxes and sings; we leave the people we pray for in the loving hands of God and trust that they are safe. We don't even have to give God very detailed Plans A. B, C, and D. We picture our loved ones loved by God, surrounded and in His Holy Spirit. Knowing they are truly there, we can pray in peace.
Praying to the Father with the Son and in the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit whom the Father and Son have sent us, we can pray for our loved ones in peaceful, joyful praise and trust, because we know God's promises to His people:
"Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!....The Lord goes forth like a soldier...he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes....(God says) I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them."(Isaiah 42: 10-16)
Knowing that the Holy Spirit inspires us to pray, knowing that Jesus intercedes for us and with us, knowing all that God our Father promises us, we can be unstressed as we pray to Him, making our requests. We can leave the final details of how God will work things out for each of us up to Him!