Try these helpful prayer tips the next time you tell someone, "I'll pray for you."
It used to be that my prayers for others, though heartfelt, were offered to God in a rather casual way. I remember the time when a friend suffered a miscarriage and she asked me to pray for her. It was only late at night that I thought of her request. I said a quick prayer and fell asleep. Not until my young son, Christian, entered the hospital for some serious testing did I begin to find a different, more caring way of praying.
When I called my closest friends and asked them to pray for Christian, I was surprised at their response. They didn’t just say yes and let it go at that. They asked questions. “What time are the tests?” “What is the nature of the problem?” “Who is his doctor?” “ How long will Christian be in the hospital?” Then without fail, each friend called daily with reassurance and support.
During the long, anxious week of Christian’s hospitalization, I felt strengthened by their prayers. If I was discouraged or afraid, I would remember that I was not alone. My anxieties were quieted. When Christian finally returned home with a clean bill of health, I thanked God. I also thanked my friends who had taught me something new and important about prayer. Here is some of the advice I gave to myself:
1. Be specific. If God knows all our needs why do we need to ask for them by name? Not for Him—that seems clear—but for ourselves. Any overwhelming task can seem less daunting when we break it down into its components. My mind is inclined to go blank when I pray in generalities, but when I focus on specifics I feel as though I’m making real contact.
2. Study up. At the end of an educational conference I met a young father, and we spoke briefly of his wife, Scotty, and her long, difficult wait for a heart-and-lung transplant. Immediately I promised to pray for her. Then I followed that up by going to the library and reading all I could about such operations. By the time Scotty was finally summoned to the hospital, I knew what the risks and complications might be. When I prayed for her, my understanding was greater, my compassion deeper.
3. Act. At the weekly meetings of our church guild the needs of our denomination’s missionaries are called out for prayer. Requests range from new water pumps to airplane tickets—often things that we members can do something about. Once, a family of medical missionaries asked if we could send them some used prescription eyeglasses. We scurried around and eventually sent off a boxful of them. Other groups did the same—enough to provide 700 African schoolchildren with glasses.
It has been said that “to work is to pray.” I’ve often thought that deeds like mailing off a box of eyeglasses serve “to put shoe leather” on prayers.
“The real business of your life as a saved soul is intercessory prayer,” Oswald Chambers once wrote. For me, I have found that the more I pray for others, the more I care, and the more I care, the better my prayer.