In Bryn Athyn College chapel today Rev. Stephen Cole discussed whether praying for other people can actually help them at all.
In his discussion he cited two examples from the Word where people pray for others. The first was from Genesis 20. This is the first time that prayer is mentioned in the Word. In the story Abimelech is told in a dream to give Sarai back to Abram and is told, “[Abram] will pray for you and you shall live” (20:7). Interestingly, Arcana Coelestia 2535 (discussed in the last 2 posts) is an explanation of what this verse means.
The other example of praying for others that he gave was Matthew 19:13-15 in which “little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray....”
Stephen Cole's conclusion was that praying for other people can help them. We cannot make people's choices for them or ever take away their spiritual freedom but, just as parents can certainly affect the natural lives of their children by nurturing or neglecting them, we can also have an effect on people's spiritual lives. Angels and associate spirits affect people's spiritual lives; why can't we through prayer?