When people share a need or we observe people in need and we want to intercede for them, our tendency is to pray our sympathies. This approach often has us praying about symptoms without addressing root issues and real needs. I think we would all agree that to pray, “Lord, help my friend feel better.” will not have a very deep or lasting impact.
In Mark 2 friends brought a paralytic to Jesus to be healed and Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” The paralyzed man had a need much more critical and with greater consequences than physical healing.
In Luke 18 (also Matt. 19 and Mark 10) a rich young ruler asked Jesus how to receive eternal life. How would you have counseled/prayed for this man? Jesus told him to keep the commandments. (What happened to ‘believe on Me and be saved’? Jesus hadn’t been through our evangelism class.) He knew the good man was trusting in his good works, so He told him if he really wanted to grow he should sell all his possessions and give to the poor and then come and follow Jesus. The man couldn’t trust Jesus for salvation while trusting in his riches.
In John 5 Jesus picked a man out of a crowd of sufferers who had been an invalid for 38 years and asked him, “Do you want to be made well?” The obvious is not always the greatest need.
When interceding, pause to think about what the root issues and real needs might be, asking God for discernment and what you should pray. (God desires a change of heart/repentance and trust more than a change of behavior/circumstances.) Then pray in the Spirit.