Praying for the sick

Are you suffering from a winter cold or possibly chronic pain for years, maybe even a life-threatening illness? Do you find it difficult to pray when you’re not well, or maybe you feel like you’re praying the same words over and over again? When we feel helpless we often cling to control as a life raft, but Christ tells us to cling to him during times of illness and every other time imaginable. We can pray for the sick and rest knowing God can restore health! He has the power to heal us, and he has the power to comfort us and give us new hope. He gives us rest when we are weary and peace when we are uncertain. If you find it hard to pray during difficult times you are not alone; pray along with this prayer for the sick!

Prayer for the Sick

Jesus, you control all the parts of my body, and you know when they’re not working at their best. Sickness leaves me stressed and steals time from all the things I want to be doing. I’m honest, Lord. I don’t like to be sick. But times like this also make me rest in you, so I thank you for this chance simply to wait on you.

I come to you today asking for your touch, Lord. Help me to be patient and allow you to do your work. If doctors are involved, give them wisdom, and thank you for providing the help I need, however you choose to provide. Whether this is a test, or simply a time to trust, I want my response to honor you.

As my Good Shepherd, I know you will lead me beside quiet places and restore my soul and body. I trust you and want to follow your leading. Help me to welcome this time not as an interruption in my carefully planned schedule, but as an opportunity to draw strength and nourishment for the journey ahead. You are my healer and my Great Physician. I look to you and give thanks for the promises in your Word that assure me of your presence and your help.

Teach me what you want me to learn during these unpleasant times, Lord. Help me not to take out my discomfort on those around me, and show me how to be a good patient while I’m recovering. In these days of sickness, Lord, I’m trusting you and asking you to make me well. And when you’ve restored my health, give me wisdom so I can treat my body as the temple of your Spirit. I’m eager to get back on my feet serving you, but I realize that even in sickness, I can still draw near to you.

SEE ALSO: Marriage, Spiritual Warfare & Healing: Crosswalk’s Top 10 Prayers of 2015

Thank you, Jesus!

Crosswalk.com: How should I pray to God for healing? – Max Lucado from crosswalkquestions on GodTube.

Bible Verses for Healing

Proverbs 4:20-22 – “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”

SEE ALSO: A Prayer for a Thankful Heart

Psalm 103:2-4 – “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,”

Psalm 41:2-3 – “The LORD protects and preserves them— they are counted among the blessed in the land— he does not give them over to the desire of their foes. The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.”

James 6:16 – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

More Healing Bible Verses at BibleStudyTools.com

SEE ALSO: Is it Ok for Christians to Pray ‘Pre-made’ Prayers?

What sickness or weakness are you praying for healing for today? Join our large praying community in the comments below and experience God’s love, power, and healing!

Rebecca Barlow Jordan is an inspirational author, speaker, and passionate follower of Jesus who loves to encourage others heart to heart. She has written 11 books and over 1700 other articles, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. Her daily devotional Daily in Your Presence is available for delivery through Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Rebecca at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.

Publication date: January 13, 2016

This article is part of our larger Prayers resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can’t find the words to pray.

Prayer for Healing

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Prayers for the Sick For a Sick Person

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit and relieve thy sick servant N. for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him with a sense of thy goodness; preserve him from the temptations of the enemy; and give him patience under his affliction. In thy good time, restore him to health, and enable him to lead the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this:

Almighty and Eternal God,
You are the everlasting health of those who believe in You.
Hear us for Your sick servant (N…)
for whom we implore the aid of Your tender mercy,
that being restored to bodily health,
he may give thanks to You in Your Church.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this:

Dear Jesus, Divine Physician and Healer of the Sick, we turn to You in this time of illness. O dearest Comforter of the Troubled, alleviate our worry and sorrow with Your gentle love, and grant us the grace and strength to accept this burden. Dear God, we place our worries in Your hands. We ask that You restore Your servant to health again. Above all, grant us the grace to acknowledge Your holy will and know that whatsoever You do, You do for the love of us. Amen.

Prayer for the Sick

Father of goodness and love, hear our prayers for the sick members of our community and for all who are in need. Amid mental and physical suffering may they find consolation in your healing presence. Show your mercy as you close wounds, cure illness, make broken bodies whole and free downcast spirits. May these special people find lasting health and deliverance, and so join us in thanking you for all your gifts. We ask this through the Lord Jesus who healed those who believed. Amen.

or this:

Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest your weary ones.
Bless your dying ones.
Soothe your suffering ones.
Pity your afflicted ones.
Shield your joyous ones.
And for all your love’s sake. Amen.

Psalm for the Sick

O Lord, in your anger punish me not; in your wrath chastise me not. For your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me. There is no health in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no wholeness in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have overwhelmed me; they are like a heavy burden, beyond my strength. Noisome and festering are my sores, because of my folly. I am stooped and bowed down profoundly; all the day I go in mourning. For my loins are filled with burning pains; there is no health in my flesh. I am numbed and severely crushed; I roar with anguish of heart. O Lord, all my desire is before you; from you my groaning is not hid. My heart throbs, my strength forsakes me; the very light of my eyes has failed me. For I am very near to falling; and my grief is with me always. Indeed, I acknowledge my guilt; I grieve over my sins. Forsake me not, O Lord; my God be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation. Let me know, O Lord, my end and what is the number of my days, that I may learn how frail I am. A short span you have made my days, and my life is as nought before you; only a breath is any human existence. Hear my prayer, O Lord, to my cry give ear; to my weeping be not deaf! For I am but a wayfarer before you, a pilgrim like all my fathers. Turn you gaze from me that I may find respite, ere I depart and be no more.

Taken from Psalms 37 and 38

Prayer for a Sick Friend

Dear Lord, You know my friend/family member so much better than I do. You know his/her sickness and the burden he carries. You also know his heart. Lord, I ask you to be with my friend now as you work in his life. Lord, let your will be done in my friend’s life. If there is a sin that needs to be confessed and forgiven, please help him to see his need and confess. Lord, I pray for my friend just as your Word tells me to pray, for healing, and for your will to be done. I believe you hear this earnest prayer from my heart and that you will do according to what you find best. I have faith in you, Lord, to heal my friend, but I also trust in the plan you have for his life and his sufferings. I ask that you look with mercy and grace toward my friend. Nourish his spirit and soul in this time of suffering and comfort him with your presence. Let my friend know you are there with him through this difficulty. Give him strength. And may you, through this difficulty, be glorified in his life and also in mine. Amen.

Prayer for the Sick and Seniors

All praise and glory are yours, Lord our God. For you have called us to serve you and one another in love. Bless our sick today so that they may bear their illness in union with Jesus’ sufferings and restore them quickly to health. Bless those who have grown old in your service and give them courage and strength in their faith. Lead us all to eternal glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

For Recovery from Sickness

O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers: Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to your servant N. the help of your power, that his sickness may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity if this be according to your will. Be present in your goodness with your servant N., that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For a Sick Child

Heavenly Father, watch with us over your child N., and grant that he may be restored to that perfect health which it is yours alone to give; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this

Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs in your arms and carry them in your bosom: We commend to your loving care this child N. Relieve his pain, guard him from all danger, restore to him your gifts of gladness and strength, and raise him up to a life of service to you. Hear us, we pray, for your dear Name’s sake. Amen.

Before an Operation

Almighty God our heavenly Father, graciously comfort your servant N. in his suffering, and bless the means made use of for his cure. Fill his heart with confidence that, though at times he may be afraid, he yet may put his trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this

Strengthen your servant N., O God, to do what he has to do and bear what he has to bear; that, accepting your healing gifts through the skill of surgeons and nurses, he may be restored to usefulness in your world with a thankful heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Strength and Confidence

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servant N., and give your power of healing to those who minister to his needs, that he may be strengthened in his weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Sanctification of Illness

Sanctify, O Lord, the sickness of your servant N., that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith and seriousness to his repentance; and grant that he may live with you in everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Health of Body and Soul

May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

For Doctors and Nurses

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thanksgiving for a Beginning of Recovery

O Lord, your compassions never fail and your mercies are new every morning: We give you thanks for giving our brother N. both relief from pain and hope of health renewed. Continue in him, we pray, the good work you have begun; that he, daily increasing in bodily strength, and rejoicing in your goodness, may so order his life and conduct that he may always think and do those things that please you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers for use by a Sick Person For Trust in God

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In Pain

Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to your Father’s will: Be near me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me according to your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.

For Sleep

O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Prayers to the Saints for the Sick Consecration of the Sick to Mary

O kind and good Mother,
whose own soul was pierced by the sword of sorrow,
look upon us while,
in our sickness,
we arraign ourselves beside you
on the Calvary where your Jesus hangs.

Dowered with the high grace of suffering,
and hopeful of fulfilling in our own flesh
what is wanting in our sharing of Christ’s passion,
on behalf of his Mystical Body, the Church,
we consecrate to you ourselves and our pain.
We pray that you will place them
on that Altar of the Cross to which Jesus is affixed.
May they be little victims of propitiation for our salvation,
for the salvation of all peoples.

O Mother of Sorrows,
accept this consecration.
Strengthen our hopeful hearts,
that as partakers of Christ’s sufferings
we may also share in his comfort now and for evermore.

Amen.

Prayer to St. Gerard for a Sick Child

St. Gerard, who, like the Savior, loved children so tenderly and by your prayers freed many from disease and even death, listen to us who are pleading for our sick child. We thank God for the great gift of our son or daughter and ask him to restore our child to health if such be his holy will. This favor, we beg of you through your love for all children and mothers. Amen.

Prayer to St. Camillus

O glorious Saint Camillus, special patron of the sick and poor, thou who for forty years, with truly heroic charity, didst devote thyself to the relief of their temporal and spiritual necessities, be pleased to assist them now even more generously, since thou art blessed in heaven and they have been committed by the Holy Church to thy powerful protection.

Obtain for them from Almighty God the healing of all their maladies, or, at least, the spirit of Christian patience and resignation that may sanctify them and comfort them in the hour of their passing to eternity; at the same time obtain for us the precious grace of living and dying after thine example in the practice of divine love. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father.

Prayer to St. Peregrine for Sick Relatives and Friends

O great St. Peregrine, thou who hast been called “The Mighty,” “The Wonder-Worker” because of the numerous miracles which thou hast obtained from God for those who have had recourse to thee, thou who for so many years didst bear in thine own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fiber of our being, and who had recourse to the source of all grace when the power of man could do no more; thou who wast favored with the vision of Jesus coming down from His Cross to heal thy affliction, ask of God and Our Lady, the cure of these sick persons whom we entrust to thee. (Pause here and silently recall the names of the sick persons for whom you are praying.)

Aided in this way by thy powerful intercession, we shall sing to God, now and for all eternity, a song of gratitude for His great goodness and mercy. Amen.

Prayers to St. Jude for Special Intentions

St. Jude, glorious apostle, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the person (who betrayed our Lord) has caused you to be forgotten by many, but the true Church invokes you universally as the Patron of things despaired of. Pray for me, who is so miserable; pray for me, that I may finally receive the consolations and the succour of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (ADD YOUR PERSONAL REQUEST HERE), and that I may bless God with the Elect Throughout Eternity.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be Adored, Glorified, Loved and Preserved throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, please pray for me. Saint Jude, Worker of Miracles, please pray for me. Saint Jude, Helper of the Hopeless, please pray for me. Amen.

O most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, people honor and invoke you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, for I am so helpless and alone. Please help to bring me visible and speedy assistance. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (state your request) and that I may praise God with you always.

I promise, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you by publishing this request. Amen.

Holy Saint Jude, Apostle and Martyr, Great in virtue and rich in miracles, Near kinsman of Jesus Christ, Faithful intercessor of all Who invoke your special patronage in time of need. To you I have recourse from the depths of my heart And humbly beg to whom God has given such great power To come to my assistance. Help me in my present and urgent petition, In return I promise to make your name known And cause you to be invoked. Saint Jude pray for me and all those who invoke your aid. Amen.

Prayers to St. Jude for Physical Healing

St. Jude, you witnessed the healing power of our Lord Jesus. You saw his compassion for the sick and dying. You yourself touched the sick, shared the sorrows of the mournful, and encouraged the despairing. You received this authority and healing power to work wonders, to cure the incurable, to make people whole. We ask you to intercede with our brother, Jesus, to send his saving grace to heal the sickness and suffering of N. to uplift his/her despondent spirits, and to instill hope in his/her hearts. Amen.

St. Jude, through prayer you praised God for the wonderful works of Jesus. You asked God for the strength to meet the challenges of your apostolate. You put your trust in God’s mercy, believing firmly that God loved you and understood your joys and sorrows, your hopes and fears, and your triumphs and failures. You understood that nothing is impossible for God. I ask you to pray for me now before the Most High so that I too might be filled with God’s saving power, understand God’s will for me and faithfully place myself in God’s loving hands.

St. Jude, you remained faithful to our Lord, even unto death. You gave your life so that others might live. You endured physical pain and emotional abandonment. But you gladly joined your sufferings to those of our Savior, Jesus, and thus shared in the redemption of the world. I ask you now to intercede with our brother, Jesus Christ on my behalf, so that I too can find strength in the face of my suffering. Help me to trust in God and put my life in his hands.

Litany of St. John of God

Lord, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary,
Pray for us.*
Saint John of God, who art our Father,*
St. John, who from thine infancy manifested such tenderness for the unhappy,*
St. John, faithful worker from thy youth,*
St. John, who didst understand the state of the poor and needy,*
St. John of God, who didst receive this name from the mouth of Our Lord,*
St. John, Man of Mercy, vowed to all kinds of good works,*
St. John, to whom God has confided the poor and little,*
St. John, who didst give liberally and with joy,*
St. John, who didst deliver the poor and save the destitute,*
St. John, feet of the lame,*
St. John, eyes of the blind,*
St. John, father of the needy,*
St. John, help of orphans,*
St. John, protector of virgins and widows,*
St. John, consoler of the afflicted,*
St. John, champion of the oppressed,*
St. John, physician for all complaints,*
St. John, joy of the sick,*
St. John, consolation of the dying,*
St. John, refuge of the miserable,*
St. John, furnace of charity,*
St. John, lover of chastity,*
St. John, meek and humble of heart,*
St. John, martyr by desire,*
St. John, model of patience,*
St. John, victim of penance,*
St. John, triumpher over demons,*

St. John, who didst merit the special assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of St. John the Evangelist,
Intercede for us.**
St. John, whom the Archangel Raphael often visited and helped,**
St. John, who didst expire on thy knees holding the crucifix,**
St. John, on the day of Judgment,**

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Have mercy on us, O Lord.

Pray for us, O our Father, Saint John of God.
That we may become your faithful imitators.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst grant to Blessed John of God, our Patriarch and Thy faithful servant, so abundant a charity toward the poor, that he devoted himself to their service in becoming their Father: grant that we may serve Thy suffering members with a charity which may merit for us the reward of being united for ever in Heaven with Thee, our Divine Head, Who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen.

O glorious Saint John of God! Full of compassion and tenderness for the afflicted! Thou, who as a reward for thy charity, didst merit to minister to Jesus Christ under the appearance of a pilgrim: obtain for us the grace ever to see Jesus Christ in the person of our neighbor, so that we may be found worthy to receive the eternal bliss promised to those who serve the Divine Master in the person of the sick. Amen.

Prayer for a Sick Person Near Death

Almighty and Everlasting God, Preserver of souls, who dost correct those whom Thou dost love, and for their amendment dost tenderly chastise those whom Thou dost receive, we call upon Thee, O Lord, to bestow Thy healing. that the soul of Thy servant, at the hour of its departure from the body, may by the hands of Thy holy Angels be presented without spot unto Thee. Amen.

A Short Recommendation to God

Into the hands of Thy unspeakable mercy, O Lord, I commend my soul and body; my senses, my words, my thoughts, and all my actions, with all the necessities of my body and soul; my going forth and my coming in; my faith and conversation; the course and end of my life; the day and hour of my death; my rest and resurrection with the Saints and Elect. Amen.

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praying for the sick

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In the Church today we spend a lot of time praying for the sick to get well. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. When they do, we rejoice in the power of prayer. When they don’t, we feel confused, frustrated and sad. We wonder where we went wrong. If you’re tired of riding this roller coaster, or if you’re wondering how to respond to a sick friend who is asking for your prayerful intervention, then this post is for you.

WHAT WE WANT

When the people we care about are sick, we want them to get well. The more we see them suffering, the more intensely we desire their recovery. But if we’re going to mature in the area of prayer, we need to take a hard look at what is really behind our desire for the sick to be healed. Isn’t it just a desire for souls to have comfortable lives on earth? There’s nothing wrong with such a desire, for God has designed us to not like pain. He also tells us to treat others as we would want to be treated, and we would certainly want someone to wish good things for us. But as Christians, we know that this earthly life is merely an introduction to a much longer existence in eternity. We also know that earthly treasures, comforts, and blessings are far less important than pleasing God and developing an intimate relationship with Him. We know this in our heads, but we rarely let these truths direct our prayer life. When there are sick in our midst, we quickly revert back to our earthly priorities and pray for things that have no eternal value whatsoever: physical health and comfort. Too often we put all of our energy into pursuing plastic when we should be pursuing diamonds. Spiritual maturity begins with deciding to set our sights on higher, more worthy goals.

God’s standards are the only ones worth considering, for in the end, everything will be measured according to His system of values. God says that He is the greatest treasure. Knowing Him, communing with Him, pleasing Him, and being commended by Him—these are the things which God holds up as utterly priceless. These are the goals which He tells us to aim for. He is the great reward we are to pursue with all of our beings.

Now we are faced with a decision. We must choose between two sets of priorities: our own or God’s. Our own priorities feel correct in the moment, but God says that our feelings delude us. He says that His priorities are the ones which are truly correct, and they are also the ones which will truly benefit us.

Now it becomes a matter of trust. Are we going to trust that God is telling us the truth about what is best for us? He certainly has excellent credentials. After all, He created us. As the One who designed our very beings, He should certainly know what is best for us. Yet it is very difficult to trust God’s wisdom in the face of suffering. It’s also hard to trust that He cares about us as much as He says He does when He lets our suffering continue. So even though God has told us to focus on higher priorities, we decide to keep focusing on low ones and we pray for healing. Not just once, but many times. And as we pray, we cling to a belief that our requests can somehow influence God’s actions. But can they?

THE POWER OF PRAYER

Can we get God to do what we want through prayer? Is human prayer a portal to some kind of mystical power that even God cannot resist? Can prayer restrain God’s actions, force Him to change course, or talk Him out of doing what He was going to do?  This is God we’re talking about, not a human being. The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. It’s not well, maybe sometimes. It’s absolutely not. Prayer does not change God. Prayer is not about directing God. We only think it is because we’re taught wrong on all sides.

If you want to go far with God, who should you look to for guidance on how to do this?  Other humans?  A book which the Church has labeled as infallible?  Or should you be looking to God Himself?  Clearly God is the One you should be relying on to teach you about what He wants.  There will be times when God will speak to you through other humans and the Bible, but no created thing should be treated as a substitute for God in your life.  If we want to know the truth, we can’t just go scouring through a sacred book.  We need to be asking God directly to teach us, then we need to be open to Him communicating His truth to us in a wide variety of ways.  When we do this, God will start to teach us that there are certain soul attitudes that He wants to cultivate within us. Trust and submission are two of those attitudes.

TRUST & SUBMISSION

Trust and submission are alike in that they both deepen over time and grow stronger through testing. Mary might think she trusts you, but when it comes to leaving her wallet or child in your care, she suddenly finds herself hesitating. The greater the risk, the more effort she must put into trusting you. But the farther she steps out on that limb and you prove to be trustworthy, the more secure she feels in her relationship with you, and the closer she feels to you in her heart.

We experience a similar type of progression with God. We say that we trust Him, and we say that we submit to Him as the highest Authority. Yet for these beliefs to grow stronger, they must be tested. Physical illness is an extremely effective tool for deepening our trust and submission. Why is it important to gain more of these things? Because we can’t get close to God without them. Why is it important to get close to God? It goes back to our core values: God says that He is the greatest treasure.

So then, how much do you care about other people? Do you really want to love them like God does? If you do, then you will put the needs of their souls far above the needs of their bodies. This is how God loves them. God wants every soul He creates to experience His highest and best—not settle for some cheap substitute. God also knows that to experience His best, we need Him to challenge us. If we are ever going to really grasp His love for us, we need to learn to stop doubting it the moment our circumstances look bad. If we’re going to really feel secure in His care, we need to learn to trust Him even when His care of us looks lacking. If we’re going to experience rich communion with Him, we must learn to submit to His will even when we find it repulsive, frightening, and painful. Illnesses are extremely effective tools in accomplishing all of these things. The panic we feel the moment we hear a grim diagnosis reveals the limits of our trust and confidence in God. The way we turn bitter and accuse God of cruelty reveals the limits of our surrender to Him. Now let’s not wander off into shame and condemnation here: we all start off with very fragile trust and shallow submission. This isn’t something to feel bad about, it’s natural. You don’t expect a baby to sit up and feed himself, and God doesn’t expect you to wholeheartedly trust Him when you are still spiritually young. God is no more disappointed in our spiritual immaturity than a father is disappointed that his newborn son doesn’t know how to walk yet. God’s expectations of us are far more reasonable than we think. And like a good parent, God thoroughly enjoys every stage of our development. He doesn’t want to skip over the toddling years. He wants to move through each stage in order—but He does want to keep moving. A mother would be quite distressed if her ten-year-old was still walking around saying “dada” and sucking on baby bottles. Likewise, God does not want us to start stagnating in our relationships with Him. He wants us to keep progressing and growing, and He knows exactly what to do to make that happen. Physical illness is such an invaluable tool in prodding souls along.

So what about your sick friend or that sick parishioner who is asking you to pray for them? What should you pray for? What would God want you to pray for—physical healing or a closer walk with Him?

STRENGTHENING THE CHURCH

We talk a lot about building each other up in the Church. Indeed, we should be building each other up, but how exactly do we do this? How do we strengthen God’s kingdom here on earth? We strengthen the whole by strengthening each individual soul. A Christian is only as strong as he is mature in his relationship with God. How do we mature? By embracing God’s priorities for us. God wants us to be closer to Him.

Now though we can group up on Sundays, we are still a collection of individuals. Pastor Ben cannot make you cooperate with God’s plan for your life, he can only encourage you in the right direction. If Ben has a friend whose marriage is on the rocks, he can’t make her stay committed to her spouse. He can only encourage her in that direction, but the final choice is up to her.

We have all been given free wills by God, and He will not let you control how other souls respond to Him or vice versa. How fully you align with Him in your heart is a decision you make alone, and one that you alone will be judged for. The most other Christians can do is try to encourage you to pursue the right priorities by aligning with God’s will for your life. When it comes to praying for other people, this is what our goal should be: to  encourage them to pursue God’s best for them.

When we pray for other people, we shouldn’t be praying for what they want. Instead, we should be remembering that God is already taking the best possible care of them. Is He going to compromise His care of them to suit our requests? No, He’s not. Our prayers do not change God. If God is withholding healing, then obviously it isn’t His best for them right now. When we refuse to acknowledge this, we just end up wasting hours of time praying for something that God is not going to give us. Later, when He decides the trial has run its course and He does heal them, we will foolishly conclude that our prayers had something to do with His decision. No, they didn’t. Prayers do not change God. When we refuse to learn this principle, we only end up deluding ourselves by creating cause-and-effect relationships where none exist.

THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER

So if prayer isn’t about changing God or getting Him to do what we want, what’s the point? Prayer is an invitation for God to change us. Prayer is about aligning ourselves with God’s will. Always in prayer, the focus should be on us changing, not on Him changing. God is always calling us to some higher way of thinking and we are the ones who must change to meet Him. We change by receiving His invitations to come closer to Him, and this is where prayer comes into it.

If we’re doing it right, our prayers should always be a response to God’s invitation. God always initiates. You might think that you asked to be closer to Him on your own initiative, but you didn’t. The Holy Spirit first stirred your heart in that direction and you aligned with His desires for you, which is why you then felt inspired to ask God to draw you closer to Him. Is prayer powerful? Oh, yes. It has awesome power, but it’s not the kind of power we promote at church and in prayer huddles. We teach that prayer has the power to change God. We prove this by the way we’re constantly directing God about.

Please heal Jane’s mother.

Please keep us safe on our vacation. Please bring us more money. Please make the tumor shrink.

Look at these requests and ask yourself who is doing the changing. God is. Jane’s mother is sick and she won’t get any better until God helps her. You’re going to go on that vacation regardless, but you want God to pay extra attention to you. You can’t make money appear out of the air or shrink the size of your own tumor. All of these requests are asking God to align with human agendas. These requests aren’t going to have the slightest effect on God. They are completely useless. The only possible benefit they can have is that by praying them, we are at least turning our minds in God’s direction. Yet if we’re only thinking of Him in terms of how we can direct Him about, our efforts will only end up dragging us backwards, not forwards. How many times have you heard a Christian taking partial credit for events that occurred on this earth?

My neighbor finally came to the Lord—I’ve been praying for her for ten years, you know. Just shows the power of prayer.

Did you see the new visitors in church on Sunday? Hallelujah, God answers prayers.

This is delusional thinking. The longer we rehearse it, the more foolish we become until we finally start drawing images of buff armored knights using sword and shield to fend off mighty demonic dragons.  We like to title such images “Prayer Warriors in Action.” What arrogance. To go about calling ourselves “prayer warriors” is to go about bragging that we have some great power over the spiritual realms. No, we don’t. We have nothing. We are nothing. It is only God who accomplishes great things on this earth, and it is only God who deserves the glory. Prayer is not about changing God, it is about changing ourselves to align with Him.

God isn’t going to change His plans for our sake. He is like a man who goes strolling past your house. He calls out to you to join him, but he keeps on walking. If you refuse to come, it’s your loss. Now in real life, God gives us countless opportunities to align with Him. When we stall around, He hangs about and urges us to stop what we’re doing and come follow Him. But when we just can’t be bothered, the day comes when He stops inviting us to go certain places with Him and it’s our loss.

God is never going to change to suit us. He will always be His independent, magnificent Self. We can either cherish His invitation to know Him better or we can try to demand that He align with our human agenda. We can demand all day, but God will never give in to us. This is what is so glorious about Him. This is what separates Him from humans who are so easy to manipulate. God is immovable. He cannot be manipulated, and He cannot be changed by us. He loves us dearly, and He delights in sharing Himself with us. But if we are going to know Him, we will get there HIS way, at HIS pace, and according to HIS schedule. We do not get to direct God one iota. Ours is merely to respond to His invitations and we do this through prayer.

Lord, make me all that You want me to be.

Have Your total way in my life. I want to be as close to You as I possibly can. Teach me how to honor You more. Help me learn everything You want to teach me through this trial.

These are powerful, life-changing prayers. These prayers are going to change the course of your eternal future, and every one of them was inspired by the Holy Spirit. How do we know this? Because our desire for God comes from God. Just as no one can be saved unless God calls them, so also no one can desire more of God unless He inspires them to. This is why it is so thrilling to find a desire for more of God burning within your soul, for it can only be there if God put it there. It is an invitation and God always honors His invitations. If we accept them and desire what He is telling us to desire—a closer walk with Him, a life that is pleasing to Him—then He will surely give it to us.

So then, your sick friend wants you to pray for her. What do you do? Do you know if God is planning to heal her? No, you don’t. She could get well or she could get worse. You don’t know the future, but you do know the Character of God and you know that He wants what is best for your friend. Don’t focus your prayers on the outcome of the situation, for that is setting her sights too low. Instead, you want to encourage your friend to set her sights on the higher things. No doubt she’s struggling with trust and submission, so these are the areas you want to encourage her in by showing her how to train her mind. If she wants you to do the praying, then you say something like:

God, we know that You are in complete control of this situation and that You are working everything out for Mary’s spiritual best. Thank You for being so faithful to her. Thank You for giving her what You know she needs, even when it’s not what any of us want. Help us to trust You with this situation. Help us all to be drawn closer to You because of it—especially Mary. We know that You love her dearly. We know that You totally understand how scary and upsetting this is for her. We know that You are always with her, even when her emotions can’t sense Your Presence. We don’t see what Your specific goals are in this, but we know that You are good and we know that we can totally trust You. Help us to desire Your will above all things, because we know that Your will is what we would truly want if we could see things from Your perspective.

Notice how you hardly made any requests. Instead, you rehearsed essential truths that Mary really needs to focus on. And when you did make a request, it wasn’t God you were asking to change.  Instead you were asking Him to change Mary and yourself to align with His agenda. This is the way to pray for sick people. This is how we strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ—by turning their focus onto truths about God and reminding them of how secure they are in His hands. This is how we encourage them to stretch their trust and submission a few more critical inches. We can’t actually do the work for them. You can’t make my muscles grow by pumping iron on my behalf. At some point, I have to choose to hoist the weights up myself, but you can certainly stand by and cheer me on. Encouragement is powerful, but we must be careful how we use it. We don’t want to encourage our brothers to try and change God through their prayers. We don’t want to encourage them to cling to doubt and fear by modeling “God please make it all go away” type requests. We want to model the higher things and shine a light on the highest road.

When we really care about other people, we want what is best for their souls. A closer walk with God is what is best for them and we want them to get as close to Him as possible. Once we realize that ALL trials are designed to help them in that direction, we stop praying their opportunities for growth away and instead encourage them to embrace that growth with both hands. It doesn’t mean it’s a sin to go to the doctor or seek treatment or take medications. God will guide each soul down different paths and we err when we demand that His help come in certain forms. But while we’re feeling stressed in the interim and unsure of what the final outcome of our circumstances will be, there is great gain to be had by learning how to use prayer properly. God has always intended prayer to be a tool through which we align ourselves with Him. It’s never been about trying to change Him. We all start off in the wrong place out of ignorance, but we don’t have to stay there.

Now let’s be realistic: will our friends get mad when we don’t pray for miraculous cures on their behalf? Yes, most of them will. Sadly, most of them are not willing to lift their sights to the higher goals. Most of them want to remain in a fantasy land where humans use prayer to coax God into doing what they want. So where does this leave us? Should we regress to foolish ways of praying and dishonor God by rejecting the insights He has given us? Should we lower our standards to be approved of by friends who don’t want to grow? Certainly not.

Real love keeps a grip on the eternal view and it refuses to compromise what it knows what is right. When we love souls as God does, we want His best for them, and that is what we keep putting in front of them no matter how many times they shove it away and demand something else. It is only when we don’t really love our friends that we encourage them in lies and delusions in order to save ourselves the discomfort of being disapproved of by them. So then, what kind of friend are you going to be?

FURTHER READING:

The Laying On of HandsSoul Before Earthsuit: Understanding God’s Priorities
Practicing Dependency: Appreciating the Wisdom of GodWhy God Performs Miracles Through Spiritual Rebels (Help for Disillusioned Christians)

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