Praying through Suffering
'I'm praying for you!' It's how we often respond when we receive news from a friend or a loved one who is suffering. We know it's a right response and while a comfort to those who are struggling, very often that's as far as it goes. Sometimes we just don't know what to pray or how to pray.
While our heavenly Father knows our thoughts and intentions, he also provides us with the help that we need to pray. As we read God's word, it gives us the words we need so that we can pray in sure and certain hope. A helpful place to start is with the prayers recorded for us in scripture.
The Apostle John had a friend, Gaius, who he loved deeply. John had heard the news of his suffering and wrote to tell him what he was praying for. It's a prayer we too can pray for someone who is suffering:
'Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, just as you are progressing spiritually.' 3 John verse 2
God cares for us wholly. He is concerned for our bodies and our souls, our minds and our hearts, the physical and the spiritual.
Two things we can pray for when our friends and loved ones are suffering.
First Pray for physical health and healing
Thankfully we live with the glorious promise that one day God will end all the hurts and pain. There will be no more sickness or death, and every tear will be wiped from our eyes. Those who hope in Christ will one day rise and we will receive our new bodies which will be both imperishable and immortal.
As we wait in certain hope, we live with the reality of living in a fallen world with frail bodies. We will face struggles and strains. We will go through seasons of suffering.
In response, it is right and pleasing to God that we pray for each other so that we may enjoy good health. God is the creator, provider and sustainer of all life so we ask him to bring about the restoration of our lives. God may choose to restore our health partially or he may choose to heal our bodies completely. It's maybe that God allows the suffering to remain. This is always hard to understand and difficult to bare. However God responds, no matter how mysterious or hidden his ways, he loves us and cares for us. What ever he does we trust that it is always for his glory and our good.
So as we pray for physical health and healing we do so with both expectation and submission. We expect him to do what we can't achieve and we submit to his will accepting his ways.
Second Pray for spiritual growth and strength
As we suffer physically it is not surprising that we can struggle spiritually. We can get down and begin to doubt. We can question God: Does God not love me?
Do I not have enough faith? Did I do something wrong?
While these responses are understandable we must also remember that suffering is not because of a lack of faith or the absence of love. God cares for his children, he grieves with us and feels sympathy for us. He does not abandon us but walks with us through our suffering. God in his faithfulness has promised to keep us for heaven and keep heaven for us. Nothing can separate us from God's love, not even our suffering.
These are the truths we pray as we walk with others through their trial. These promises give us Strength when we are weak; Hope when we are discouraged; Joy when we are in pain; Assurance when we are in turmoil. We need a continuous vision of eternal glory so that by faith we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. In suffering our faith can take a battering but through the prayers of others our faith grows and is strengthened.
So as we pray for spiritual growth and strength we do so with both confidence and assurance. We are confident that God will not let our faith fail and we are assured that God will remain faithful to us.
A resource that I have found helpful and encourage you to purchase:
I'm Praying for You - 40 Days of Praying the Bible for Someone who is Suffering by Nancy Guthrie. You can order here: https://teachsolas.ie/