Have you ever heard someone say, “I prayed, but God did not answer my prayer”? Frequently individuals express this sentiment when something hoped for does not happen. Such a response, however, negates the legitimacy of the answer “No.”
One of the most valuable lessons I learned during Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) was the importance of thoughtful, “thy will be done” prayers. Often, in an effort to comfort, reassure and bolster faith in hurting people, well-meaning supporters will give answers for God during prayer. “God, I know that you will do this because you are all powerful.” Some will claim, in prayer that they heard God say this or that. “I heard the Lord say that you do not have this disease.” Some will chide, rebuke, challenge the ailing individual to have more faith and God will do this or that. They may even suggest that the reason why an individual has not been healed, delivered, restored, etc., is because they don’t have enough faith. All of these assertions are dangerous, damaging and potentially deadly. Are there times when God uses individuals to speak a prophetic word of hope, vision and "against all odds" deliverance? Absolutely! But it is critical that caution be used when making such claims.
A well-known Christian author who experienced a devastating accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down frequently testifies about the pain caused by the aforementioned attitudes. After years of attending special prayer services, experiencing the “laying on of hands,” and “prayer partners” telling her that if she had enough faith, she would get out of the wheelchair, she finally challenged them back with the question, “Do you have enough faith to sit in this wheelchair?”
Sometimes, God says “No.” No matter how much faith we have, no matter how well we know the scriptures, no matter how long we have been walking with the Lord, we will never know God’s thoughts or the details of God’s ways. It is spiritual malpractice and arrogance to suggest through prayer that we can predict/ “prophesy” outcomes. Many a vulnerable soul has been deeply discouraged, distraught and severely broken because of wrong perspectives prompted through bad prayers.
Instead, here are some basic guidelines we should follow when supporting others through prayer…
-Listen with an open heart…allow the person to share their heart’s desires, worries and concernsMay we “1st, do no harm” in our endeavors to support others through prayer.
-Share words of comfort from the scriptures…identify passages that express hope, trust and guidance in the midst of fear, sorrow and disappointment
-Ask open ended questions that allow the individual to respond fully, rather than questions that prompt only “yes” or “no” answers
-Join the individual in asking the Lord for their specific requests, encouraging prayers that are submissive to God’s holy will.
-Encourage prayers that place hope and trust in God no matter the outcome
-Avoid suggesting that healing is not happening because of a lack of faith
-Avoid declaring that this or that will not happen (“you or your loved one will not die…”)
-Affirm that it is always appropriate to ask God. Remind them that God, however, is sovereign and has the last say.
Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,