In October, I had a conversation with my brother about how our immediate family had never really known tragedy. It was one of those conversations you almost hate to speak out loud and you ridiculously express concern that you might be asking for bad things to happen. Kinda like the notion of not praying for patience…
Now, as we eagerly anticipate daily updates and FaceTime chats from our other brother who is going through chemotherapy to treat his cancer, I can’t help but reflect on that prior conversation. Not because I think we spoke these difficulties into being in our lives, but because I am reminded of all God has shown us during this season.
I’ve learned so much about grief and hope and joy and healing. But of all the lessons, I think I have learned the most about the sustaining power of prayer. It has not only changed me personally, but it has reinforced how deeply I want to minister to others during their times of pain.
Lesson #1: Knowing people are covering you in prayer allows you to keep walking, keep dealing with the task at hand.
There is an exhaustion that runs much deeper than a lack of sleep. The prayers of other believers can sustain you in ways you never knew were possible. I used to hear people say, “Keep praying. We can feel your prayers.” I always interpreted that to have a spiritual meaning, as if they were saying, “We gain great comfort from knowing you are praying.” But now I also understand it to mean, “The fact that I can keep moving and making decisions and not fall to pieces is a physical evidence of your prayers. I literally feel them holding me up.”
Lesson #2: Praying the Word anchors you.
When every part of your faith is tested in those dark moments of the soul, when you wonder why and how you got to this place, the hidden Word in your heart is sharp and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). It pierces through the numbness and reminds you that indeed God is good (Psalm 119:68), He can be trusted (Psalm 62:8), and He loves us far more than we could ever love each other (Ephesians 3:18). There were times when I chided myself for praying the same verses over and over again, as if God would honor my prayer if it were more creative. However, the Spirit gently reminded me that I was praying His Word, and I could never articulate a prayer better than the Word of God. And in the moments when I struggled to remember how to pray or what to say, I found immeasurable comfort in knowing deep within my bones that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
Lesson #3: “I’m praying for you” can never be said too much.
No encouragement is too trivial. Cards, texts, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, Scripture—they’re all meaningful. When your world stands still and everyone else’s seems to keep going, you need to know that you are not forgotten in that moment. And the ones that come days, weeks, and months after the fact are just as important because they serve as precious reminders that your brothers and sisters are still lifting you up before the Father and you’ve never really walked this road alone.
Lesson #4: The Holy Spirit will send you prayer warriors.
Aside from your precious friends who pray often and much for your need, there will be some who are so burdened for you that they walk the road beside you in ways you never imagined. They labor over you in prayer for your freedom, your healing, your pain, your endurance, your spiritual needs. The funny thing is that these prayer warriors are not necessarily the most obvious people in your life either. But they are the people who understand what it means to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and thanks to the Spirit’s prompting, they will pray you through the difficulty and beyond. I wish I had the words to convey how the prayer warriors in my life have ministered to me in recent days, but there are none. When all is said and done, I pray I will honor their hard work and glorify Christ by being the same co-laborer for someone else some day.
What else have you learned about the sustaining power of prayer in the face of difficulty?
Photo credit: GregWilliams