Monday, March 10, 2008

Praying in the Midst

I have been putting together some training materials to prepare for the coming disaster season. Every year here in Gondor the snow melts and causes landslides and floods and this year promises to be particularly difficult because of the harsh winter which depleted villagers’ already meager resources and dumped heaps of snow in the mountains.

When I teach I prefer to exegete scripture but in this paper I am recounting my personal experience in praying for others. Take it with a grain of salt but do consider the truths that I have discovered here. I often tell our team members to pray for everyone everywhere you go; pray at all times, pray in all situations, do it in English, do it in the local language but DO IT! Below are 8 things I have learned- mostly the hard way- about praying for others.

Prayer for victims:

1. Listen to the Holy Spirit as you visit with someone who has experienced tragedy. This is one of those useful tips that we all know but we so rarely do. There are two things you should be listening for when you talk with someone as you consider how you will pray for them. One: The Holy Spirit is always talking and He often talks through those who suffer. God has a lot to say through those who suffer and we miss it because we are too busy trying to solve their problem. LISTEN to the Holy Spirit! He will teach you and guide you through the experiences of those who suffer. If you are a disciple of Jesus then BE a disciple, learn and grow in the desperate situations you find yourself in. Time and again God has opened my eyes to physical and spiritual truths as I listened to those who suffer. Two: Listen to the Holy Spirit for what He has for that person. Again, we just want to solve their problem so we can feel good but what does He want? He may want to heal the sick and broken hearted but He may also want to use this desperate situation to bring the person closer to Himself. Listen so you can pray in accordance with His will and not your own sentimental notions.

2. Listen to the person using good listening skills. Ask questions to clarify information. Do not defend God or anyone else. Do not argue with the person when you think they are wrong in their evaluation of the situation. Your job is to LISTEN and let them know they have been heard.

3. For persons who are in panic mode you should remind them of where they are now. In other words, if a person lost a loved one tragically they may go on and on about the suffering that that person endured. Remind them gently that he/she is at rest now. Sometimes victims need to be reminded that the disaster is over. This does not subvert principle number two, it is for a very specific situation where the victim of a tragedy can not let go of the disaster. All who suffer disaster will experience this to some extent and part of your ministry can be to pull them into the present.

4. Offer to pray for the person. In our part of the world they will never say no. It may feel awkward but press on and ask anyway. Even if that person seems resistant to your help offer to pray. You will be surprised at how walls come down when we offer to pray. Remember that when we go to prayer very often spiritual warfare kicks in hard. You will think of lots of reasons not to pray just now. Decide just now to pray anyway.

5. Pray for healing for an illness or injury ONLY if God tells you to do so. Do not make promises you can not keep. Do not provide hope that is not real hope. This is a tough one and controversial. I used to pray for all who were sick to be healed but I have learned that God’s will is more complicated than that. Pray for God’s grace and love to touch that person. Pray for God to meet their needs. But don’t pray the command prayer of ‘In the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk’ unless God very specifically asks you to. You don’t command God, you obey Him. He has a will for that person right now- find it and pray it.

6. Do not miss an opportunity to pray for healing if God does in fact direct you to do so. He opens up many doors in this way- don’t miss it! God loves the person you are ministering to much more than you do. He opens all kinds of doors in all kinds of ways. Just because you are uncomfortable or have little experience does not hinder God. Let Him have His way in every situation. If you sense that now is the time to pray the direct prayer of healing do it in full faith.

7. Pray in a way that lets the individual know you have heard them well. Begin your prayer by thanking God for whatever the person is thankful for. Recount any blessings that the person has mentioned. Thank God for all who did survive the disaster and thank Him for all who have helped. Then move on to pray for the things yet needed. Shelter, food, comfort, whatever THEY have perceived they need. Finish the prayer by projecting a time when life can be normal. If they lost a garden that they miss say, “Lord, we look to you and your power to restore this man’s garden and we pray your blessings on the crop that he will reap because of your aid.” Projecting a blessed future is something most do not do when they pray but it can be very powerful. Take what they have said and pray for a time when normalcy will be restored. This lets them know that you have heard them which is key in ministering to them. It also releases the power of God into their lives in the places they perceive they need it most.

8. Don’t promise to return unless you are sure you will be able to return. Do not promise to help unless you know for sure that you will be able to provide aid. I know from experience that you want to feel that you are their savior and that you will fix all their problems and so you make promises that you can not keep. Remember that they belong to God and they are in His hands and not yours. Do not seek glory by promising aid but seek His glory by downplaying your own role in their recovery and elevating Him as their only hope. Of course, you will help when time and resources allow but even then you will not be the savior. Point them to the one who is in all you do, say, and pray.


GuyMuse said...

This is timely practical help coming right when we need it with the flooding that has 3/4 of the coast under water here in our country. Thanks for taking the time to put these thoughts onto paper.

Strider said...

Honestly Guy I thought of you when I wrote it. I know your area is under water and we are praying that God guides you to serve well. If you have any practical questions you have my e-mail, but I trust that God will guide you just fine.

Cindy said...

Can you explain more of what you mean in point #2 about "do not defend God or anyone else?" I can see that in a disaster many could blame God for the situation. I know that God does not need our defense. However, I'm still having problems putting the two together.

Cindy said...

Can you explain more of what you mean in point #2 about "do not defend God or anyone else?" I can see that in a disaster many could blame God for the situation. I know that God does not need our defense. However, I'm still having problems putting the two together.

Strider said...

Cindy- When people are suffering oftentimes they lash out. They may or may not even mean what they say. Many well-meaning Christians, usually us guys, feel we need to have theological discussion about the nature of God and suffering in the middle of their pain. They can not hear you so what I am saying is to be quiet and listen. Yes, tell them God loves them but more important is to show them He loves them by understanding and listening to their pain. They may also lash out at the Govt or NGO's for slow response etc. Now is not the time to explain the problems of logistics and transportation. Simply acknowledge that they feel betrayed, neglected, or even punished by God. Acknowledging that you hear them is not the same as agreeing with them. Let them vent. When they calm down and begin to recover they will remember that you were the one who really cared for them and they will seek you out to discuss truth. Then you can set them straight about theology or the nature of relief aid. This list of principles is meant to guide you through an initial assessment and prayer. Long term you will want to move people from where they are to a true understanding of God and the gospel.

Cindy said...

Thank you - that makes sense. My family and I are going to the Horn of Africa to serve beginning in the fall, so I'm trying to learn all I can. I really enjoy your blog!

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