Praying for a friend
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 1:2)
We have just returned from a fulfilling trip to the heart of Europe. Our bags are unpacked and the laundry baskets are bulging. In addition to dirty laundry and Belgian culinary treats, however, we brought back memorable experiences. On the way we were blessed with loving hospitality and great encounters with friends. Looking back, I realise that the highlights of the trip were actually related to prayer. As we met and talked with friends, we enjoyed hearing their news. But we also heard of the struggles some are facing. I remember feeling a little frustrated at not being able to provide answers to people’s questions or peace to replace their pain. At times we were at a loss to know what to say when we heard of the heavy burdens our friends are bearing. However, as we all know, simply sharing our hearts with our friends is in itself valuable. We find relief in voicing our questions, joys and frustrations. Yet, as Christians, there is a dimension missing if we limit ourselves to just sharing our experiences with each other. As the good Samaritan did, we are meant to care for the wounds our neighbours have received – but also to bring them to the Father, just as the good Samaritan brought the wounded man to the inn.
Following one discussion with our friends, my husband said we would pray for them. I agreed – but felt it would be better to do so there and then. I hesitated to propose it, though. Why is it that it often feels awkward to propose praying for someone straight away? Is it perhaps false humility? Do we fear imposing our goodwill on a reluctant recipient? Or could it be that the devil himself tries to hinder us from praying for each other? He knows the power and grace that are released through times of sharing and prayer, so perhaps he seeks to stop the process. I doubt I am alone in having had thoughts such as “It would seem weird if you proposed to pray”, “You don’t really have anything to give” or “It would be presumptuous of you to pray now”.
Perhaps, on the other side of the story, the devil suggests something else to those of us who are in need. When we need prayer, we may face thoughts such as “Don’t bother anyone with your need”, “It’s not so important” or still “You need to deal with it on your own”. Maybe these intrusions in our minds are directly from the devil, too. His aim is to cut us off from the support we can give or receive through encouragement, prophecy or prayer. I am glad to be able to say that after some hesitation I summoned my courage and proposed to pray with our friends there and then. And as we did, God began to give us prophetic words for the person we prayed for. It wasn’t complicated, and it wasn’t awkward. The Holy Spirit took over as we gave Him the opportunity to do so.
When I remember times of deep need in my own life, I recall how God used someone to pray for me in those situations – and how it lit up my darkness. When I reflect on those times, I realise it has been the prayer of a friend that has often proved invaluable. Everyone needs encouragement sometimes. But perhaps it is hardest to ask for prayer precisely when we need it the most. May we learn to ask for prayer with more boldness and offer prayer with less hesitation. With God the results are worthwhile!