How to Pray the Bible for Someone Who Is Suffering
How often have we said to someone, or maybe written in a card, or on social media – ‘I’m praying for you’? Maybe you are the person who has been in the midst of suffering, and someone has said to you ‘I’m praying for you.’ Why do we do that? Because we believe that we are called to pray and that prayer makes a difference.
But oftentimes, we have a very limited vocabulary when it comes to praying for people in the midst of suffering. By that, I mean we pretty much only know how to pray that God will take the suffering away, that he will fix, that he will heal, that he will restore. All of those are good things, because God is our heavenly Father and he wants us to come to him and express our needs and desires to him. But sometimes our prayers to take suffering away are just too limited and actually ignore something that we see again and again in the Bible. And that is – for those of us who are in Christ, the suffering we experience is never meaningless.
Whenever anyone suffers, we all have that question we ask – ‘Why?’ We’re longing for God to provide some kind of clarity in our struggle, to help us to understand why he has allowed this into our lives. Often we don’t really expect that we will get any kind of answer to that question. In fact, many people would say, you need to stop expecting that you will get any answer to the question ‘Why?’ And yet I would say, throughout the scriptures, God has told us again and again the answers to why he allows suffering to those he loves. Scripture says ‘this happened so that…’ and it presents a purpose that God has for allowing suffering into that particular situation or that person’s life.
My friends, if God has a purpose for the suffering in our lives, why don’t we want to pray and ask him, maybe even beg him, to accomplish that purpose in our lives and the lives of the people we’re praying for? Do we really want to limit our prayers only to begging him to take suffering away, to fix it, to restore, to heal? Shouldn’t we instead expand our vocabulary, asking God to accomplish the purposes that he has revealed in his word? Well, to do that, we need to look at what he has said in his word.
So let’s begin in John 9:3. You may remember in John 9, Jesus had just healed a man who had been blind since birth, and his disciples asked him, ‘“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
‘“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”’ (John 9:2–3)
So, we see that one of the purposes that God has in the suffering that he allows into our lives is to put God’s glory on display in the world. If you’ve suffered significantly, you’ll know this – people are watching. They’re watching to see how we’ll respond and what will happen. And in this passage God says that the suffering in this man’s lifetime of blindness wasn’t an accident – it happened to put God’s glory on display.
Now, maybe you’re thinking to yourself, ‘How did God put his glory on display in this man’s life? Well, he healed him.’ Maybe you’re someone who would say, ‘We didn’t get the healing that we asked for. Does that mean that God’s glory has not been put on display?’
Well, let me tell you this, when people look into your life and see that you have joy, that you have a sense of peace in the chaotic circumstances, that you have a rugged trust in God even though the situation may be confusing, isn’t that putting the glory of God on display for all to see? It makes us want to sing, ‘In my life Lord, be glorified today.’ And makes us want to pray:
‘Lord, in this suffering that you’re allowing in my life, I can see that you’re not granting me the healing like you granted to this blind man, but I believe you want your glory to be on display. So Lord, I’m asking you to work in the interior of my life so that the glory of your presence with me, the glory of your work on my character, will be on display for all the world to see.’
Nancy Guthrie is the author of ‘I’m Praying for You’, recently released by 10Publishing.