Can you pray for me?
Have you ever been caught off guard when someone who is sick or hurting asks you to pray for them? Do you feel ready to pray when someone is in need? Or do you feel unprepared, inadequate, even nervous? God can minister to someone who is hurting in a powerful way when one of his children steps out in faith to pray! If you want to be ready for God to use you, consider these eight recommendations:
- Prepare your heart; wait on God. Don’t rush into prayer. Take a minute to prepare your heart. Confess your sin, give thanks, and ask God for help. If you pray in tongues, it may be appropriate to pray under your breath before you begin. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, clarity, and boldness. Draw near to God, and he’ll draw near to you (James 4:8).
- Listen to the person and the Spirit. Before you jump into prayer, be attentive to the person as they describe their need. What key words or themes jump out at you? Most importantly, take a moment and listen to God. How is the Holy Spirit leading you to pray (Ephesians 6:18)? Is the Spirit putting other needs on your heart they didn’t mention? Is there a Scripture God is bringing to your mind you can pray through?
- Keep your prayer focused. Be specific as you pray. If you know the person, resist the urge to pray for every aspect of their life. Long or loud prayers are not better and can sometimes be unhealthy (Matthew 6:6-7). Stay focused on the specific burden they have mentioned and how the Spirit is directing you.
- Pray, don’t counsel. When someone has approached you with a pressing need (or you approach someone with a burden to pray), don’t let it turn into a counseling session. Asking a few key questions may be helpful, but don’t get carried away. Also, don’t try to sneak in your counseling advice during the prayer, just pray – you can find another time to counsel if needed! If they seem more interested in talking than praying, say something like, “Let’s pause there for now. Maybe we could get together later to talk more; but for now, I’d really like to pray.”
- Be open to a prophetic word. As you are praying, God may lay on your heart or mind a specific word of exhortation or encouragement to share with the person. This is what the Bible calls a prophecy or revelation (1 Corinthians 14:3, 6). As you intercede for this person, the Holy Spirit may guide your mind to an encouraging word, a vivid mental image, or a Scripture verse. You might share this prophetic word as part of your prayer or share it with them after you finish praying. You could simple say, “As I was praying, God brought this phrase (or picture, Scripture, etc.) to my mind.”
- Incorporate touch as appropriate. Physical touch can be a powerful way to invite the presence of God. You may feel led to lay your hands on their hands, their shoulders, or the particular part of the body that is hurting (Matthew 19:13, Acts 8:17). As the Spirit leads, you might invite the person to open themselves up to God by kneeling, lift their hands, etc. Our physical bodies can be a helpful part of the spiritual activity of prayer.
- Follow-up as appropriate. If you know the person well, or the prayer time occurred in the context of an established small group, following up with them is often a good way to care for them. But, if you don’t know the person well, or the prayer ministry occurred during a corporate worship gathering, it might be more appropriate to leave it between them and God. Seek discernment from the Spirit, and ask them if they’d like you to follow-up. If their need is severe, ask them for permission to share their situation with the church elders. Either way, continue praying for them as long as they remain on your heart.
- Pray with faith and confidence. The prayers of God’s children have power (James 5:16)! The God of the universe hears us! Pray with all the faith God has given you. Pray boldly in the name of Jesus and in the power of his death and resurrection (John 14:13-14; 16:23-24). Ask for healing. Ask God to drive away the enemy. Ask God to work mightily. Pray confidently according to God’s will (I John 5:14).