“When there is little awareness of real need there is little real prayer.”
~ Donald S. Whitney ~
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
How do you pray for others? Do you pray for a specific result?
For instance, if you have a friend or family member who is ill, do you pray that they “get well,” “recover fully” or use similar verbiage?I took a class on prayer a few years ago and the facilitator taught us something very simple, but profound. We say the Lord’s Prayer which includes the words “thy will be done” but we otherwise don’t seem to pray that way. Instead, in prayer, we say things like “let me get that job or raise or . . .” or “please help ______ get better soon” or “please give me . . .” Garth Brooks sang about lost love and, of course, many of us recited all too often the familiar words, “please make ______ love me . . .”
In reality, what we should always pray, according to that teacher, is a request that the Lord’s will truly be done. That’s a harder thing to do because it requires us to step outside of our self and self-centeredness to surrender to another’s will. That’s a hard thing to do, especially if you are a Type A person who is used to being in charge of your own destiny and unaccustomed to giving up control about major aspects of your own life.
When a friend or family member is ill, she urged us not to pray for them to recover fully because that might not be the Lord’s will for their life. Instead, she believed that we should pray for “the best result possible” and one that is in accordance with the plan that God has for that person’s future.
The quote speaks to that scenario. Too often we don’t pray at all because we don’t know the specific needs of our friends and family members. But if we pray as that woman taught us, there is no need for us to know the details about what they need or the challenges they are facing. We can simply pray for “the best result possible” in the lives of our loved ones and, of course, that the Lord’s will be done in their life. Along with that prayer, I believe should come a request that the Lord’s will be revealed to them and they be granted peace and acceptance in those instances when the plan for their life involves disappointment, difficulties, strife and, perhaps, suffering. Our prayers will be more effective, in keeping with the way that Jesus himself taught us to pray and keep us from ever uttering the words, “Well, I don’t know . . . I prayed about it but my prayer wasn’t answered.”
Garth Brooks sang that “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayer.” That’s a clever line for a song, but does not conform to reality: All prayers are answered, but the answer is not always the one we sought. So if we pray instead in the manner that facilitator suggested, we will never be disappointed nor will we ever overlook another’s needs.