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What Not To Do If Someone Asks You For Prayer
In our walk with the Lord, eventually someone will approach us and ask if we would pray for them or someone they know. Personally, I consider it an honor to be asked; however, not everyone shares my sentiment. There as some that do not have a prayerful life and prayer is something that does not come easy for them. If someone asks you for prayer, what do you do? Do you sympathize with him or her and pray, or do you…
- offer to pray but do not?
- begin to recite scripture after scripture?
- begin to preach about the healing power of the blood of Jesus?
- tell them that if they’re sick, it’s because they have little or no faith?
- tell them to rebuke it or not to claim it?
- give them a pep talk and tell them that they can overcome it?
- begin to tell them of your own hardships?
A few of us are guilty of doing some or even all of the above, and some may have hurt others in the way we have responded. I like to believe that the majority of Christians do not mean to hurt or offend anyone but, nonetheless, people do get hurt because of the carelessness of our words. If we stop to think for a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, we can avoid many misunderstandings. Let us remember that what we say or do reflects on us as Christians, and the day will come when we will all have to give an account to God of everything we have said and done.
Therefore, if you have answered yes to any of the above, this hub is for you.
Do you offer to pray but do not?
If someone has asked you for prayer and you offer to pray but do not, you are being dishonest and untrustworthy.
Now let us reflect on the promises of God for a moment. If you have read your Bible, you will know of the promises God made to us. The covenants He made with man, the promise to send His only begotten son, and of our salvation through Him.
Now imagine God not keeping His promises, and imagine Jesus not coming to earth to redeem us. What would become of sinful man then? That would make God a liar and untrustworthy. He will be undeserving of our faith, would He not?
However, God does what He says He will do. He has kept all His promises and will continue to keep them (Num 23:19). If we are made in His image, then we are to be like Him. Do not say you are going to do something and then do not.
If you are sympathetic and are burdened to pray for that person, do so. Some people like to pray for others on the spot because either they want to satisfy the need of that person right there or they do not want to forget later. Some people will keep a prayer list and write the request on their list. It does not matter when or how you pray. There is no right or wrong way, as long as it comes from the heart.
However, if you are not moved to pray for that person, please do not offer to do so or make promises you cannot keep or will not keep (Mat 5:33-37). God sees what is in our hearts and what comes out of our mouths. If you do not want to offend them or hurt their feelings, tell them that you will ask your church if they will place his or her name in their prayer list and then do so.
Do you begin to recite scriptures?
There is nothing wrong with reciting Bible verses. However, do you think this is a substitute for your love and concern? We can point people to the right scriptures in the Bible when they are hurting but when we do, we may come across as being insensitive and unsympathetic. How is that? You ask. Well, we will seem uncaring and uninvolved in their cares. In other words, it will look like we are sending them packing with enough scriptures to let them figure it out on their own because we are too busy with our own problems.
Once, I e-mailed some friends to pray for this situation in my life. A few responded with immediate e-mail prayers, while others showed their concern and offered to pray. However, one friend e-mails me back with about ten Bible verses and nothing else in the e-mail. I thought that was cold; I know how to look up scriptures. It was as if he was saying "here you go, get over it!"
Most of the time people just want to know that someone cares and is listening to them. I feel we should not use Bible verses in lieu of the love Jesus commanded us to give one another because it would seem we are being insensitive and dismissive of the needs of others.
Do you begin to preach about the healing power of the blood of Jesus?
If you are going to talk to another Christian, who has been walking with the Lord for a while, about the healing power of the blood of Jesus and how we can overcome all things through Christ, then you are preaching to the choir.
If you are professing this to a baby Christian or someone who does not know the Lord very well, then you are going to either overwhelm them or come across as being insensitive and overbearing. Why? Because a baby Christian has to start with milk first and then meat.
For someone who does not know the Lord well, you will come across as if you are preaching to them, and this will turn them off to God. I am not saying that it is wrong to speak of the healing power of the blood of Jesus, however, sometimes a simple heartfelt “I will pray for you” is sufficient; it could mean the world to someone needing to hear just that. We can teach them about our awesome God and His redeeming blood later, after they see God in us first.
Do you tell them that if they are sick, it’s because they have little or no faith?
I remember a time when I was young in the Lord and met up with a Christian friend I had not seen in a while. We began to talk about what had transpired since we last saw each other. During our conversation, I asked her if she would pray for a chronic illness I had.
The words that came out of her mouth felt as a severe judgment for my seemingly lack of faith. She said to me that if I had faith, sickness would not be in my body. Ouch! This is something you should never, ever tell another person! Who is to say how much faith is in them? Only God knows what's in their heart, and He is the only one that can pass judgment. Even if a person is weak in faith, we are not to pass judgment on anyone, Romans 14:1 says, "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters."
After our meeting, I was very disheartened and asked God to forgive me for lacking in faith, convinced that God was displeased with me and it was the reason why I was not healed. I know better now and I have forgiven my friend since, but I never forgot the words she spoke over me. Sadly, a couple of years later, I found out this friend became ill with thyroid disease, and I prayed for her.
Friend, if you have been blessed with health and never been sick a day in your life, other than minor things, you are not to pass judgment on those who suffer life-long illness or sickness. You do not know what this person is going through. People are going to have trouble in this world and it does not mean it's because they are lacking in faith. Jesus warned us in John 16:33 “in this world you will have trouble.”
Like my friend, there are those who believe that all sickness can be healed and if people are not being healed, it is because there is something wrong with that person’s faith or there is sin in their lives. This belief is not only wrong but ignorant.
If all sickness can be healed, then why are there so many good faithful Christians walking around sick? Is it because of sin? But are we not all sinners?
You say the Bible says “and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:10). Here is another verse taken out of context and misinterpreted. This verse is not talking about physical healing but about sin. See I Petter 2:24 for a clear explanation of Isaiah 53:10. If we are all to be physically healed of sickness, then Jesus’ atonement on the cross was incomplete because there are still many Christians walking around sick.
A few years back, my mother began to attend a church my sister attended. My mother became very ill and on several occasions, the pastor and others laid hands on my mother and prayed for her healing. In one of their prayer meetings, the pastor told my mother she was completely healed. My mother truly believed she was healed; my mother was not healed. A few months after telling her that, my mother passed away from her illness at the young age of sixty-eight. I do not blame God for this but on the ignorance of people and their erroneous beliefs when it comes to the Word of God.
Therefore, do not promise anyone that they “are healed” when you pray for them. We do not know the will of God for that person and we should be careful of what we say. The truth is that many are divinely healed and many are not but to those that do not get healed, the Lord will give them the grace and the peace to overcome it because Jesus also said “but take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus did not say I have been spared the rejection, the pain and the agony I will endure; He said I have overcome it. He had victory over it. The world did not deter Him from the will of God; neither sickness can deter you from the will of God.
Do you tell them to “rebuke it”
or not to “claim it?”
There was a time in my early walk with the Lord when I picked up alot on the way modern Christians believed and talked. We would use phrases like “rebuke it!” or “don’t claim it!” Today many Christians still use these phrases as a shield against an impending unforeseen evil that is ready to pounce on them at the mere utterance of a negative word.
I do agree that the Bible teaches us to rebuke unrighteousness and not to speak negatively; however, many have taken the teachings of the Bible completely out of context. The erroneous teachings in many of today’s churches have filled the hearts of Christians with fear and superstition. When fear takes over, we are paralyzed and imprisoned.
I am not saying we are to have free reign of our words because there is power in our words. What I am saying is that we should not allow the devil to deceive us and paralyze us with fear because of erroneous beliefs. Remember fear comes from him, not God. We are to be alert and prepared but not paralyzed with fear, and we are to be knowledgeable of the Word of God and seek understanding from the Holy Spirit.
When a person approaches you and asks for prayer because they have a sickness or a problem, they are not “claiming it.” They already have it and need your help. I have seen people stop other people mid-sentence telling them “don’t claim it.” How is the person going to ask you for your support or prayer if you will not let them finish what they are saying? The same goes for “rebuking” a problem or sickness. How is that going to help the person who is seeking help? Let’s get real here. Instead, let us pray for that person, and show them our love and give them our support.
Do you give them a pep talk and tell them that they can overcome it?
It is understandable that each of us is given different gifts and exhorting the body of Christ is a gift that not everyone possesses. The apostle Paul is an excellent example of having this gift. However, there is a big difference between exhortation and edification of the body of Christ and being plain flippant and rude.
Not everyone has the gift of exhortation but having sympathy for someone does not require any special gift; it only requires a willing heart. When we give the person a quick fix-it-all statement by casually telling them it’s ok and they can overcome their problem, you are trivializing their problem and are being indifferent. Instead, we need to take a moment to listen to them and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.
A while back, I attended a woman’s Bible meeting at a home. At the end of the meeting, the group leader asked if anyone had prayer requests, being the newbie in the group, she looked at me hinting I could go first. I was young in the Lord then, so I began to tell them of a very serious concern I had. One woman interrupted me and said something like, “You’ll be fine. When you get to be as old as us in your walk with Christ, that stuff won’t even bother you anymore, you’ll see!”
Although she did not intend to be hurtful, she was. She not only trivialized and dismissed my concern but was condescending as well. If she had allowed the Holy Spirit to guide her words, she would have not made those remarks and instead she would have shown me the love of God.
Do you begin to tell them of your own hardships?
I feel we have all been guilty of this at one time or other. Not that we do it intentionally, however, we have done it nonetheless. We begin to compare their problems with our problems and try to outdo theirs because our problems are bigger. Or we try to use our past as an example and give them advice on how to handle theirs. The other person ends up shot down before they had time to finish and suddenly, they are left overwhelmed with not only their problems but yours as well.
The key word here is listening. Can we put our own problems aside for one moment and stop to listen to someone else’s? Have we become so insensitive and narcissistic that we cannot see beyond ourselves?
Over the years, I have seen the hearts of many Christians become hardened over other peoples’ suffering. People have become so focused on their own problems that they forget Jesus’ greatest commandment, “love one another” (John 13: 34-35). If you injure one hand, wouldn’t the other hand take over to help the injured hand? Because we belong to the body of Christ, we should always pray and help one another.
Sometimes just letting someone know that you care and are standing by them is enough. There is so much power in our words, and in the same way our words can bring strife and destruction, it can also edify and bring healing to our spirit.
I believe miracles do happen and people can be healed, but that is God’s decision and not the decision of people. The Bible teaches us many wonderful things about praying and it is when we come in agreement and in one accord do we see the power of God at work and miracles happen. For the Lord says “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mat 18:20).
Therefore, I part with this, if you are going to use any of the responses I mentioned above, I urge you to think before opening your mouth and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you.
Let us not forsake anyone when we are asked for prayer or help. Even if we have never been through what they are going through, and do not know what to say, be led by the love of Christ in you and let them know you care.
In Christ’s love.