I don't always know how to pray for people. I'm gaining more confidence in my prayers—I'm willing to pray for some pretty bold stuff without worrying about whether God's going to answer the way I want him to. He knows what he's doing. So I'm willing to pray some pretty bold stuff on behalf of other people, too.
The problem is that sometimes I don't know what folks are really praying. I mean, people may tell me to pray for comfort or peace, but in their heart of hearts, they're praying for miracles. Healing and the like. They just don't want to tell anyone because they think praying for something so big sounds silly.
They're wrong. It's not silly. I've got proof.
Still, I understand the sentiment, and my new outlook is fairly recent. But I'm determined to pray boldly, no matter what the prayer is. If for some reason it was crucial that dogs started falling from the sky, I would pray for it. I can't think of a situation where that would be necessary, but nothing's impossible, I guess.
So my new thing is the "I'll have what he's having" approach. When I'm not sure what someone truly wants prayer for, rather than praying superficial prayers for comfort and hope, I ask God to dig into their hearts and find out what they really want. Then I tell him that that's what I'm praying for. A double helping of whatever they're praying for. Whatever they think is too silly or too impossible to say out loud, that's what I want to count as my prayer.
The reason this works is that God knows the heart. I don't have to know. Well, I can't know. I just have to contribute a bold prayer to the cause. This also works with people whose stories you don't know; secondhand news that you don't have an "in" to obtain information. Just tell God that you're praying for what they're praying for, or tell him you're praying for their most urgent need. Pray with confidence that God knows their heart (and yours), and that he'll make the connection. Because he will. He's awesome like that.
But, most importantly, pray with confidence. God isn't deaf to our prayers, even if it doesn't end up the way we think it should. He does want the best for us. He wants to hear your voice, and that can make all the difference.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:13–15)