“How are you today?” you greet your neighbor at the park. You asked the question like you meant it, and, perhaps because of that her response, “Okay,” is accompanied by the expression that says that she is most definitely not “okay.” “What’s the matter?” you ask, thoughtfully ignoring her “okay,” responding instead to her expression. And out comes the story of her fight with her husband last night. How do you conclude your conversation? You know you should pray, but how do you pray?
Perhaps the only thing stronger than our natural impulse toward the spiritual and religious is our reticence toward public displays of our religion. Last week we talked about five reasons we ought to press through our discomfort to pray for those in need. Those reasons were:
1) To demonstrate Christianity is more than platitudes.
2) To demonstrate you have really heard your friend.
3) To demonstrate your love for your friend.
4) To demonstrate your belief.
5) To invite them to pray.
But what does it look like to pray with someone who is in need? How do we do it?
1. Keep it simple.
This isn’t the time to impress your friend with your breadth of theological knowledge. Don’t pray, “Sacred Jehovah Raffa, spiritually anoint Brittney with your healing. Build around her your hedge of protection that Yahweh would be praised!” Slipping into Christian jargon will not just confuse them, it will make prayer feel inaccessible to them. Make sure they understand every word. Pray simply and clearly.
2. Make them know they were heard.
In your prayer, reflect back the requests they have made, both in what they have spoken and also what they have shared about their emotional state. Pray to God about both. “God, Brittney must be afraid and hurting right now. Would you give her your peace and show her your love?” Doing so shows true empathy and demonstrates to them God’s mercy. Many people think that when we come to God we need to pretty ourselves up. By praying honestly to God, you are showing them that God invites us to come to him as we are, not prettied up, but honest and transparent.
3. Pray earnestly.
Be willing to show your own relationship with God in your prayer, not in a fake or over dramatized fashion, but in a real way. You’re not just firing up something to heaven unthinkingly, not just tacking something on God’s to-do list. You demonstrate your love both for your friend and for God by praying earnestly.
4. Keep it short.
Be sensitive to the fact that you’re praying with someone who isn’t used to talking with God. Don’t be flip, but don’t go on and on either.
5. Follow up.
Circle back with your friend and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you’ve continued to pray for them (if you have!).
You’re a priest. A priest! What an incredible gift God has given us. Lean in and pray with confidence and hope. There is perhaps no more powerful barrier-breaking instrument we have than the power of prayer and that power is doubled as we lean into uncomfortable situations and pray for those in need.
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