“Praying for you.”
How many times have you said this to someone and then walked away, intent on praying, only to come up blank when you start to pray? Just totally unsure of what their soul really needs or how to pray effectively? You might have a few requests to start with, but beyond that, what should you pray about?
Or, maybe you wake up in the middle of the night with a specific person on your mind and you feel the urge to pray for them. You’re not going to call them up and ask what you can be praying for at 2 a.m. but beyond a general sense of what they might need prayer for, you’re at a loss.
Fortunately for us, the Word of God has a lot of examples of what to pray for one another, and for our own souls. A few years ago, I came across a helpful list from John Piper, that has really changed how I pray – both for myself and for others. For believers and unbelievers, friends, family, and sometimes even strangers. I have it written on the inside cover of my Bible and I come back to it often and pray through it for the people I love.
- An inclination to God and His Word – “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain.” Psalm 119:36
- For the eyes of your heart to be opened – “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” Psalm 119:18
- For your heart to be enlightened – “That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” Ephesians 1:18
- For your heart to be united for God – “O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.” Psalm 86:11
- That your heart will be satisfied with God and not the world – “O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14
- That you will be strong in joy – “That God would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Ephesians 3:16
- That your strength in Christ will produce good deeds for others so that the glory of God is seen in your life – “That [we] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord . . . bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:10
So, when you wake up in the middle of the night with a nudge to pray, or you’re getting into your car after coffee with a friend you’re burdened for, or when your brother is really on your heart but you haven’t talked with him in a while, or you want to pray for your waitress but can’t catch her to see if there’s a specific thing he or she wants prayer for, or when you’re praying for your kids… here’s a good place to start. Pick one, or pray through all seven.
And for the things that just feel too deep to reach with our words? The people whose hearts need more than our words can express in prayer?
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
I’m so grateful for the Lord’s provision for us, both in examples and instruction from the Word and in the Spirit who bridges the gap that we cannot cross with our own words.
¹ “How to Pray for the Soul – Yours or Another’s.” Desiring God, 15 Oct. 1998, www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-pray-for-the-soul-yours-or-anothers.