Attend a typical prayer meeting in the United States … Read a typical prayer list for an American church … Odds are those meetings and lists will be dominated by people with health problems. People with cancer. People with sick kids. People who have been injured. People on hospice care. Of course there will be a few missionaries tacked on, but odds are the vast majority of the emphasis will be on people with health problems.
I think this emphasis reveals something about our culture. I think an overwhelming focus on praying for sick people to get better reveals what’s most important to most people. Health and comfort. Yes we care about ministry and missions, but we really want our sick friends to get “better.”
I also think this emphasis reveals just how unhealthy our prayers tend to be. Too many times I’ve head prayers for the sick that sounded eerily similar to a nurse briefing a doctor on the condition of patients. God does not need your status updates. You don’t need to inform him about anything.
Thirdly, an over-emphasis on praying that God would heal every sick person we know as soon as possibly can lead some to respond by going to the opposite unhealthy extreme. Some may conclude that we should cut the sick folks from the prayer list and focus on church issues and kingdom issues.
I don’t want you to stop praying for sick people. I do want you to think about the way you pray for sick people. Here are 7 suggestions for how you can pray for those who are sick:
- Pray for Salvation. Paul prayed earnestly for the salvation of his kinsmen (Romans 10:1). We should always pray for the lost to be saved, especially when their earthly life may be coming to an end.
- Pray for Strong Faith. When Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus, he prayed that they would know the truth about the hope we have in Jesus (Ephesians 1:15-23). His prayer is a great model for our prayers.
- Pray for the Presence of God. Jesus promised to be with his people, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20). Often the sick begin to question God’s presence. Pray they would experience God’s presence in a powerful way.
- Pray for Bold Witness. After praying for the Ephesians, Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him. Specifically, Paul wanted them to pray that he would be bold in sharing the gospel (Ephesians 6:19). The testimony of a suffering saint has tremendous power, so pray that those who are sick would be bold in their witness.
- Pray for Family Members. Being a caretaker is hard work. When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he thanked Epaphroditus for the way he ministered to his needs (Philippians 2:25-30). Pray for those who find themselves in the role of caretaker.
- Pray for Healing. After bringing his people out of Egypt, God revealed himself to Israel as “Yahweh Rapha,” the Lord who Heals (Exodus 15:26). This is our God, and it is right to believe that God can heal anyone of anything.
- Rest in God’s Goodness, Wisdom, and Sovereignty. Yes we pray for healing. But we always end by resting in God’s goodness, wisdom, and sovereignty. Regardless of the outcome, we remind ourselves that God is good, wise, and omnipotent. We never place our plan above God’s plan. Rather, we rest in the gracious plan of our good, wise, omnipotent God.
If you’re interesting in reading more about what the Bible says about prayer, check out my book Pray Better from Rainer Publishing.
Originally published February 17, 2016 on landoncoleman.com.