St. Augustine speaks of obtaining grace for oneself through prayer. Can we obtain grace for others through prayer? Is there a social element to prayer?
We pray for all the human race, for the entire world, for all people… We do so that they correct themselves and become pure of heart, turning to God and his rectitude, and thus adhere to him…Let us pray for those not yet called, that they may be called. It could happen that they are predestined in the following way: that their salvation is dependent upon our prayer in such a way that through it they receive the grace to choose to be among the elect.
from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger.
Prayer obtains grace through humility in the seeking of God’s strength rather than one’s own and in the receiving of what God provides. Obedience exists in the turning to God in prayer as well as the acting in what is received in prayer. At the same time, it is prayer that obtains the graces of humility and obedience by which one turns in prayer and receives the fruits of prayer. Herein is how one might pray for themselves as well as for others.
As man grows in prayer, he comes to see that prayer is not for material goods but for spiritual goods; the chief good being union with God. To know God, to do His will, and to serve Him so that one might be united to Him in this life and the next. If man loves God, he desires greatly to receive from God that which God wishes to bestow upon him. In looking at his fellow man, he has a two-fold desire: that his fellow might first seek the spiritual goods and that God might bestow upon his fellow God’s desires. God’s desire succinctly is that men might be united to Him. A man, who seeks that God’s will be done, thus also desires that his fellow-men might be united to God. Praying for others that they might receive union with God, is thus uniting oneself with God’s will and carrying it out, for prayer obtains the graces of humility and obedience, as previously mentioned, for oneself, for one’s fellows.
There is not just a social element to prayer, but a duty and a holy obligation to pray, not just for one’s brothers, but one’s friends, one’s neighbors, those who are far off, and one’s enemies. Prayer is there to save sinners, not just oneself, but all. It is there to save those who reject God, those who do not know Him, and those who are unprofitable in the graces that come into their lives. Prayer is offered for love of God and for one’s fellow. One’s prayers are but God’s own instruments for the bringing of graces to oneself as well as to others.