How do you pray effectively for people who are sick, suffering, or depressed? I find my first instinct is to pray for a return to “normal”–a speedy end to whatever is uncomfortable, abnormal, or unwanted. “Lord, make it end. Take it away.” I want instant healing, a dramatic turnabout in their circumstances. In other words, I want for them what I would want for me.
This is good, but is it Biblical? Yes and no. The Bible is filled with healing, and with prayer for healing. Jesus healed, and so did many of the prophets and disciples. In most cases, the healing was prefaced by prayer, and often followed up with prayers of worship and thanksgiving. But there are two things I notice that bear closer inspection:
- Not everyone received instant healing; some received no healing in this lifetime. (Examples– Paul was never healed of his “thorn in the flesh”; Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he was not healed of his illness; Jacob (Israel) never lost his limp, etc.)
- Most of the healing was accompanied not only by prayer, but by personal interaction. Jesus didn’t start a prayer chain for someone 100 miles away– he spoke with them, laid hands on them, and prayed with them. The prophets followed the same pattern. Healing comes from God, but it often comes with tenderness, compassion, and sharing from another person. God works through his people. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t share prayer requests online or pray for loved ones far away. But it does mean that our prayers are only part of the picture.
We need to avoid “disconnected” prayers– generic prayers for “good outcomes.” Instead, we need prayers that involve us in the work of healing and connecting people with each other, and with Christ.
It is risky and uncomfortable to pray this way, but when we hear about someone struggling, let’s pray for their recovery, and then, let’s pray that God would show us how we can be His hands and feet (or ears and lips) to help make the healing complete–sometimes even just a note of encouragement, or ten minutes spent visiting can glorify God and spread healing and hope. If we are not in a position to be with another person, pray that God will send someone alongside to encourage.
I know many who already do this– it’s nothing new. But we live in an age where we “know” more people than ever before, but we interact personally with very few. There are many in our “sphere” who are desperate for a little TLP– Tender, Loving Prayer. Let’s see that we’re giving it.