Praying for our hurting friends is certainly one of the very best ways we can help them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “True spiritual love will speak to Christ about a brother even more than to a brother about Christ. It knows that the most direct way to others is always through prayer to Christ and that love of others is wholly dependent upon the truth in Christ.” We often tell people (especially when we don’t know what else to say), “Oh…I’m so sorry. I’ll be praying for you.” We say it to communicate our care and concern for them, but how fervent and faithful are we in actually praying for them? If you’re anything like me, then you probably forget your promise to pray for many of these situations.
When you promise to pray for someone, it’s usually best to go ahead and pray right then and there. As you finish a conversation or even a phone call, tell the person you’d like to pray at that moment. It is incredibly encouraging to the wounded soul to hear a brother or sister in Christ pray for them.
And when you pray for people during a personal devotional time, go ahead and tell them. Share with them what Scripture passage you used to pray for them or the contents of your prayers. Perhaps send them a note letting them know you were thinking of them and praying for them. I was grateful to receive this email from Aaron, a fellow church member:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the time and effort you are putting in serving our Great I Am through serving us. You are a living testimony of God’s grace along with all the pastors and elders and staff of Redeemer Dubai. You are all a huge blessing for someone like me. I am so thankful to God for bringing me to my home here in Dubai— Redeemer Church of Dubai. My best blessing this year is when God brought me to the church to be united with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am always looking forward to our worship gathering and always being amazed that I am singing along with the congregation and sitting there listening to the gospel. It is so amazing, and it is unbelievable that someone like me would be called by God into His fellowship and into the fellowship of His people. Thank you so very, very, very much. I am overwhelmed with joy I can’t explain.
I am praying for you and the church, always. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:11–12).
Aaron let me know that he was praying for me and told me the contents of his prayer. He prayed Paul’s prayer from the beginning of Colossians for me. What a glorious prayer indeed! Consider how much your life and the lives of others would be transformed if each of us made a regular practice to pray for people and then let them know what we prayed.
My favorite example of this in my life is a letter Gloria handed to me on the day we both graduated from seminary. I had started seminary four weeks before our wedding day, and on that first day she wrote me a prayer for my time in seminary. She kept it hidden from me for five years and then handed it to me right before the graduation ceremony and asked me to read it after I was seated. My eyes filled with tears as I read and recounted in her prayers God’s faithfulness in those past five years. It was a rocky road, but God had faithfully preserved us. We were often without money and needed God’s miraculous provision. My arm ailment got so bad that during the last year I could no longer type anything. My wife had to sit and listen to me recite the content of my master’s thesis and type as I spoke. Reading Gloria’s prayers for me reminded me of God’s steadfast love for us in preserving us through this difficult time.
The apostle Paul was amazing at this. Consider the encouragement the Philippian church received from Paul when he wrote them and told them how he prayed for them:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:3–11)
There’s something especially sweet and encouraging about hearing the contents of someone’s prayer for you. The Philippians must have been overcome with joy to hear that Paul was praying for their love to abound more and more. If that’s not an encouragement to love more, I don’t know what is!
It’s important and helpful to pray Scripture-based prayers for our friends. In this prayer for the Philippians, Paul is not merely praying for present comfort, but that they would be ready for the future reality of Christ’s return. And when he does pray for the present, he prays at the end of the prayer that they be filled with the fruit of righteousness. He’s praying that fruit would result from their relationship with God. This prayer reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is a prayer of epic proportions. Paul is praying that the Philippians would live a holy life—not that they could be perfect on this earth, but that they grow to be more like Christ each day, knowing that someday they would stand before God at the judgment seat of Christ. Incredible!
Keep praying for your friends, share with them what you’re praying for, pray biblical prayers, and pray persistently. Keep praying even when it seems like nothing is happening. God can make the sun stand still; he can heal your friend, and he can grow your friend in Christlikeness.
Join the Conversation
What are some ways you’ve tried to encouraged others through prayer?
Content taken from Being There by Dave Furman, ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
Dave Furman (@davefurman) and his wife Gloria moved to the Arabian Peninsula to start Redeemer Church of Dubai. Dave is Redeemer’s first pastor. Dave and Gloria have four children, and he is author of Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting.