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On the Journey
By Rick Hamlin

Five Ways to Pray for Others

Someone’s going through a rough time, and they’ve asked for your prayers. You’ve said, “Sure, I’ll pray. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll be holding a good thought.” Holding a good thought feels like just the right thing to do; you also want to storm the heavens.

But as the days go by, as you’re waiting to hear the latest on a friend’s cancer diagnosis or the good news of the job that is finally found, or word of a depression lifting, you wonder how you can keep up the prayers. Here are a few ways I’ve found:

1.  Write that prayer down. 
There’s something visceral about putting pen to paper. “Praying with a pen” is how my friend John Sherrill calls it. Scrawl your prayer on a piece of paper–my desk is littered with Post-it note requests. Or put it in a notebook that only God has to read.

As you write a name and what you’re asking for, you are calling up hope from your own heart, believing in the quick dispatch of the help that’s needed.

2.  Put a picture on your phone. 
God bless our smart phones. I’ve got all sorts of pictures in my “camera roll” of family and friends. I scroll through photos and start to smile, remembering a beautiful summer day or a spider web I spied on a walk with a friend or a languid afternoon on a porch swing or a dinner to celebrate some milestone. 

No reason a photo can’t call forth a prayer as it calls forth your love, your laughter, your compassion, your memories. Move a few photos around to create one file that needs your special attention. No one but God needs to know why those good people are there. 

3.  Send an email. 
I’ll be in the middle of a meeting or reading an email or standing in an elevator and someone’s name will come to mind. It could be my own impatience or flickering attention span, but I figure if a name has come to mind, there’s a reason.

I’ll use it as God’s prompting to email that person I haven’t heard from in weeks, the one I prayed for, and ask, “How ARE you? Was just thinking of you. You’re on my wavelength.” Okay, some people are very private, but I’ve never found anybody offended by my concern. And the email can be just the beginning of a prayer.

4.  Don’t just “like.” Pray. 
I often become impatient with the “like” option on Facebook. I wish there were another button I could push, one that could say “Amen” or “Thanks be to God” or “I’m feeling your pain” or “I’m feeling your joy.”

Sure, you can write something down in the comment area, but that doesn’t always feel right, especially when someone posts news like a death in the family or a change in employment. I want them to know I’ve heard them. I push “like” and say “Amen” to myself. God gets it, even if Facebook doesn’t.

5.  Hum a song. 
A lot of songs we connect with people we know and love. Last night when I was doing the dishes I listened to one of my dad’s favorite old songs, and sang along, just me and the soapy water and soppy lyrics and the remembered love of a father who hasn’t been around for three years. 

He was always good about praying for others, and the two of us in the kitchen with the music playing, had a fine prayer service together. Our hearts were in tune even if our voices weren’t. Songs help us connect to the Spirit. Can’t sing? Making a joyful noise to the Lord is more than good enough.

How do you like to pray? Tell us in the comment field below.

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine and the author of 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without. To learn more about the book and explore your own prayer journey, watch this video.