Recently, my friend texted me and asked me to pray for her grandmother who was ill. Right that moment, I stopped working on my homework assignment and asked God for peace and healing for her grandma.
Her grandmother didn’t receive an immediate miracle. But that’s not why I said the prayer. I prayed that she and her loved ones would be comforted during this difficult time. I prayed for her in the moment and told her about it when I checked in on her the following day. My friend told me that she appreciated my prayers because she felt such a sense of peace overcome her that evening. She explained that knowing she can ask me to pray for her is special because “It’s important knowing that you can share with someone.”
I think about prayer as a conversation with God where we express our thanks, wants, needs, fears, desires, and confessions. It’s our opportunity to gain wisdom and understanding about the direction our lives are going. Prayer is also one of the most intimate gifts you can give to someone. We offer it to strangers and society at large in times of great tragedy, like a terrorist attack or severe weather event. When someone sneezes, many people say, “God bless you,” which is a prayer in and of itself. And, if you’re anything like me, during cold and flu season, you follow that with a silent prayer of, “Please don’t let me catch whatever they have!”
Of course, in addition to prayer being a special, sacred exchange, for some of us, it can be a kind of intimidating. Many times we want to pray for our friends, but we just aren’t sure where to start. That’s why I’m sharing four things that may help you become more comfortable praying for people in your life.
If a friend says they are going through a rough time or asks you to pray for them, don’t wait until bedtime — you may forget or fall asleep! There is no time like the present. Besides, the prayer doesn’t have to be long. It can be short, simple, and silent, right in the moment or shortly after. Or you can pray for your friend aloud, right on the spot. Whatever you’re most comfortable with.
Set aside regular time in your day to pray for friends. You don’t necessarily have to pray specific prayers for every “friend” you have on social media. I try to make it a habit to pray for friends I know are going through a difficult time, are about to start a new chapter in their lives, or ones who I haven’t heard from in awhile. You may never know just how your prayers will affect their lives.
I belong to a group-text with some of my best girlfriends from college. When we aren’t sharing funny cat memes or reminiscing about crazy weekend road trips, we are asking the others in the group to pray for us. The most recent prayer request was sent by yours truly. It was time to make that dreaded graduate school tuition payment, and I was running short on funds, unsure how I would cover my school expenses. One friend said she’d be praying for me. Another dropped a prayer right there in the text. The fourth let me know she’d pray for me later that evening.
Now, God isn’t a genie, and prayers aren’t like wishes: We don’t always get what we want just because we asked for it. But God does hear us. I believed with everything in me that God led me down the path to grad school, and if he wanted me to be there, I’d be able to stay in school. Well, less than 24 hours later, I learned about a payment plan that would allow me to make smaller payments. Twenty-four hours after that, I received a part-time job offer. Some people might say the payment plan and job were coincidences, but I firmly believe that they are the answers to my friends’ very specific prayers that I would be provided with everything I need to continue my education.
Sometimes people ask us to pray about some really personal, difficult things. When someone trusts you enough to share the intimate details of their life with you, it’s your responsibility to keep it private. If someone tells you that they are in danger, being harmed, or might cause harm to themselves or others, then you may decide to tell a police officer, medical health professional, or some other expert who can help them. Otherwise, keep the prayers between you, your friend, and God.
There are times when someone crosses your mind and a few minutes or a few days later, you receive a text message from that person. What if we took these instances as more than happy little coincidences? What if every time we thought of someone, we prayed for them? What kind of difference would we make in the world if every single person committed to praying for their friends?
Prayer is powerful. It changes lives. So, why wouldn’t we pray for the ones we love? Making prayer — especially for others — a regular practice, may take some time, but it’s one of the most important things we can do for each other.
Originally published on September 25, 2018.