To one extent or another, we’ve all witnessed difficult situations in the lives of others and wish we could somehow lighten their burden.
Maybe it is a sister with a struggling marriage or a mother whose child is dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide.
Maybe it is a friend who just suffered a miscarriage, a co-worker whose husband lost his job, or a neighbor with a chronic illness and has no hope of significant improvement.
Maybe it is a young couple struggling through infertility or a family member recently been diagnosed with cancer.
In many times of these situations, there’s only so much we can do, for physical distance often prevents us from being present to help. Other times, the particular friend may not share many details, but we know she’s struggling. Sometimes we ourselves are limited in time and resources. And still other times, we are at a loss as to what we can do to help.
So is there really nothing we can do in these situations when it seems impossible for us to ease the burdens of a struggling friend or loved one?
As I write this, I’m asking myself this very question, for I am observing (from a distance) a dear friend walk through a trial of her own. My mind can only think one thing: I want to help her, but what can I even do from thousands of miles away?
God has gently reminded me of a very specific, yet often-forgotten way that we all can minister to those around us who are struggling, no matter the situation and no matter where we are. In fact, not only are we able to do it, but I believe that, as members of the Body of Christ, we are also called to do it: we have been given the ministry of specific and intentional prayer.
As we follow Scripture’s instructions to pray for each other, I believe that we are in turn helping to bear one another’s burdens, for God specifically works through prayer.
But how can we be purposeful about praying if we don’t know the specifics about a given situation? Do we simply say a general, cover-everything prayer of “God bless Suzy and help her in the difficult situation she’s in right now, Amen” and then move on?
I want to suggest that, even if we don’t know the specifics of a situation, Scripture gives several examples of prayer that can help us be intentional and specific when we pray.
The following references are two of Paul’s prayers: one for the Philippian believers and one for the Colossian believers. I have listed some suggestions on how these particular prayers can help guide us in praying purposeful prayers for others.
* Pray that their love would increase: their love for God, their love towards their spouse and family, their love towards those around them, their love towards their enemies.
* Pray that they would grow in knowledge: knowledge of God, His character, His Word.
* Pray that they would grow in discernment: discernment of God’s will and what He has determined to be good, true, right, and pleasing to Him.
* Pray that they would be pure and blameless in their actions: that they would walk in the light and flee sin; that their actions in response to a trial would not be a cause for the world to scorn the name of the Lord. If they don’t know the Lord, pray for their salvation.
* Pray that their lives would be filled with the fruit of righteousness: that their lives would reflect the practical outworking of living to please God, minute by minute, hour by hour, no matter what their circumstances may be.
* Pray that they would understand God’s will: that they would then walk according to what they know to be His will for their lives.
* Pray that they would be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding: that they would see God’s hand in their lives, despite difficult circumstances; that they would understand God’s ways are higher than our ways and that He is trustworthy; that they would trust Him with the unknown; that they would seek those who would give godly advice instead of man’s wisdom.
* Pray that they would be walking in a way that is pleasing to Him: that they would be walking in daily fellowship with Him through time in the Word and prayer; that they would be walking in obedience to His commands.
* Pray that they would be fruitful in good works: that they would not grow weary in doing good; that they would have joy in doing what is right.
* Pray that they would be ever growing in their knowledge of God: that they would not neglect spending time in His Word, prayer, and weekly fellowship with the local Body of Christ; that they would have an increasing desire to love Him more.
* Pray that they would experience His enabling power: that they would know His divine strength and enablement with each new day, whatever their circumstances may be; that they would recognize how He has given grace and strength for each new day, even through the small and mundane things.
* Pray that they would have an endurance, patience, and joy that only comes from the Lord: that they would walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as the result of a continual dependence on the Spirit; that they would cling to the glorious hope of what is yet to come.
No, there are many situations where we may not be able to do much more than pray, but God has promised that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jam. 5:16b).
So pray earnestly.
God will hear.