One of the best things we can do to nurture our friendships is to pray for our friends. When we take an active role in interceding on their behalf, our friends know they are not alone in their struggles as they wait on the Lord. Here are three things to remember when praying for a friend.
I jumped out of my mom’s SUV, dumped my backpack on the kitchen floor, and slid in front of a black, 30-pound Hewlett Packard monitor. While I waited, I spun in the office chair for 10 minutes while the desktop computer booted up. Then another five for the infamous AOL dial tone to let me know I was connected to the World Wide Web.
I double clicked the yellow stick figure. First I wanted to see which of my friends were also logged into Instant Messenger—even though I had seen them at school only 30 minutes before. I opened another browser and heard the three words that made my heart soar, “You’ve got mail!”
Now, I groan a little inside when I see my email inbox full. I swipe left on the junk email from stores where I’ve made one purchase. There was a time when I waited hours for a single message from a virtual pen pal to pop up. Now a red icon on my phone notifies me each hour of new messages. I find that I quickly skim, forget, or delete these messages, even ones from friends and family.
Today, I’m browsing a new batch of emails when I hear my toddler daughter yelling from our front door, “Mail time!” We walk down our driveway barefoot, and I pick her up to open the mailbox. My heart leaps. Sitting on top of ads and bills is a yellow hand-addressed envelope. We run back inside as I check to see which thoughtful friend or family member sent me a note in the mail.
What made middle-school-me thrill at an email from my summer camp pen pal and current-me rush to open a handwritten notecard? It’s the same desire—to feel remembered. To know that someone took the time to boot up an old computer or find a stamp just to let me know they care.
PRAYING FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Prayer is intimate communication between a person and God. It also unifies and encourages other believers. By letting someone know specifically how you are praying for them, you are not boasting about your prayer life. Rather you are loving others through your intercessions. Paul spoke about his intentional prayers to almost every church to whom he wrote:
- “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers” (Philemon 1:4).
- “… without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers…” (Romans 1:9-10).
- “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16).
- “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you…” (Colossians 1:9).
- “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4).
- “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
- “… I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3).
Why did Paul think it necessary to let these churches and individuals know that he was praying for them? Paul was not bragging about his vibrant prayer life. Rather he was showing the believers that they were not alone. Paul fought alongside them in their spiritual journey through his prayers. He reminded them that God was at work. His words spurred them on to pray these same prayers for themselves and others.
For the same reason, I love to know someone took the time to send me a letter. Telling someone you are praying for them shows that you care for them in the deepest way.
You are fighting their spiritual battles with them.
They know that when they share a struggle with you, you are taking it to the throne of Heaven and claiming God’s promises on their behalf. It is the pinnacle of unity in the Body of Christ when we pray for one another and tell each other of God’s faithfulness through our prayers. So how can you let others know that you are praying for them?
Here are three ways to get started.
1. SEND THEM A VERSE YOU HAVE BEEN SPECIFICALLY PRAYING
Early every morning, my sweet grandmother sits in a love seat on her covered porch, looking out over her backyard and wearing a plush robe and cozy slippers. In her lap sits the thickest of notebooks with sticky notes poking out every which way. Her eyes are closed, and I know she’s praying.
Even when I’m not physically there to witness her morning prayers, I’m often reminded of her intentional prayers for me. I’ll wake up to a text from her, letting me know that she’s praying for something specific that I’ve shared with her and the Scripture she prayed that morning. I’m encouraged to know that she’s thinking of me and I’m not alone in my struggles.
Her morning prayer texts also remind me of God’s promises. Sometimes when we’re in the midst of a struggle, we can’t see God working. By sharing a passage that relates to a prayer request, you can shine the light of truth into someone’s situation.
You can give them the tools to continue fighting their battle with the strength of God’s Word. This can be as simple as a text, or you can send them a note reminding them of your prayers with the verse written on a card. Either way, you are providing them with a visual reminder of the power of prayer.
2. REMIND THEM HOW YOU HAVE SEEN GOD WORK IN THEIR LIVES
Because of my grandmother’s influence on my prayer life, I have written my prayers in journals since I was in college. I have many old notebooks stashed in my desk, and I periodically take them out to reflect on my past prayers and praise God for His faithfulness.
Sometimes my prayer requests make me laugh (physics tests seemed like such immovable mountains when I was 19), but it also deepens my faith to remember how God has time and time again answered even the most trivial of prayers. But if we’re not looking, we may miss His faithfulness. We must, therefore, not only pray for others but also celebrate with them when God answers.
A few years ago, I had been praying for a friend for years while she went through difficulties in a serious dating relationship. We prayed together for restoration, for God’s blessing, for guidance. But, ultimately, it was God’s will for that relationship to end. We were both heartbroken, but I continued to pray for her during that hard season.
A year later, I stood next to her as a bridesmaid at her wedding to a godly man neither of us could have envisioned when we were praying for that struggling relationship years before. As a gift, I photocopied the prayers I had written for her during that difficult season.
I checked each of them off as a beautiful picture of how the Holy Spirit had used those prayers to bring blessing beyond our imagination. This encouraged her prayer life, deepened her faith, and caused her to rejoice even more in the faithfulness of God.
3. REGULARLY ASK THEM HOW YOU CAN BE PRAYING FOR THEM
While there are general needs we can pray for each other regularly—wisdom for decision making, comfort in suffering, boldness in gospel proclamation—we should also be intentional about praying for specific requests in others’ lives.
Some of these specific requests may be obvious, and the Holy Spirit may even lead you to pray for particular people or requests at times. Yet we will never know how to pray for the inward spiritual struggles of our friends and family if we do not ask.
While we may know that a friend is suffering with an illness, we do not know what lies the enemy is tempting her with unless we ask.
The simple question, “How can I be praying for you?” has a two-fold effect. You are letting them know they are not alone, promoting unity in the Body, but you are also subtly pointing them back to Christ with whatever their struggle is.
And when we point them to Christ, we are pointing them to the Son who is even now sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25).
Who is the Holy Spirit prompting you to pray for today? If a person pops in your head right now, close your browser and take their requests to our Heavenly Father. Then, open a text and let them know you’re praying for them—right now. It’s so simple. It takes just a minute. Yet it may make all the difference in the world.
How have people responded to you when you’ve told them you’re praying for them? What can often stop us from doing this? Share your experiences with us in the comments!
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