A Practical Guide to Praying for Others
I once heard stand-up comedian/author Jennifer Fulwiler say, “What if you are the answer to someone’s prayer?” In other words: What if someone is praying for help, and you can offer the words or an action that they most need in that moment?
When I first heard this, I felt both inspired and intimidated. What if I completely miss the “signal” from God to help someone? How am I supposed to know? I’m beginning to learn the answer involves prayer.
While I am no prayer expert, I have come to see the many gifts that come from praying for others (and others praying for me).
Prayer gives us perspective
When I get the chance to talk to my family and friends about more than the surface-level small talk, I realize that practically everyone is going through some sort of challenge. Honestly, it can feel overwhelming. “I can’t possibly respond to all of these difficulties,” I think to myself, so I shut down and scroll through Instagram instead.
Prayer pulls me back out of my narrow-minded thinking and reminds me that it’s not my job alone to solve everyone’s problems: God is in control. Prayer allows us to free ourselves from the weight of over-responsibility, which often leads to either burnout or doing nothing.
A simple prayer to offer in these moments: “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Prayer directs us
If you tell someone going through a challenging time, “Let me know how I can help,” they will rarely be able to give you a direct answer. They likely don’t know what they most need, or may feel like it’s too big of an ask.
I have found when I am intentionally praying for a person, I am better able to sense how I can best help that person through nudges from God. Sometimes this nudge might come to mind as an action — like ordering the person a meal from a delivery service. Many times I find that my words can be most helpful, and I realize that in praying for them, I’ve been given new insight into their struggle and know what to say.
One of my friends has recently been going through an especially difficult time, so I have directed many of my prayers for her. I noticed when I was most persistent in my prayer for her, I felt prompted to text her specific words of encouragement on particular days. It was a testament to God’s power when she would reply with gratitude, saying I had texted her words she really needed to hear that day.
A simple prayer to offer in these moments: “How can I best help? Come Holy Spirit.”
Prayer connects us
Through prayer, God guides us to reach out to people we may not even know are suffering. I know this through personal experience when other people became the answer to my prayers.
A few years ago, I experienced two miscarriage losses and went through some of the darkest days of my life. During that time, I was contacted by a significant number of family and friends who — although they had no idea what I was going through — had felt nudges to reach out to me.
Most notably, one of my aunts “randomly” texted me shortly after both losses to let me know she was praying for me. I had been starting to doubt God was really with me and was feeling extremely lost, but I was moved when I realized God was sending me love through people like my aunt.
A simple prayer to offer in these moments: “God, who most needs my help today?”
I’ll be honest: it can be really difficult for me to follow through on my intentions to pray. Below is a short list of things that have helped me.
1. Write down your prayer intentions: Place them on your to-do list, your calendar, or a place you regularly see (like your bathroom mirror).
2. Turn your actions into prayer: Pray while you exercise, when you hear a song that reminds you of someone who could use prayers, or when you’re doing everyday tasks like brushing your teeth.
3. Entrust your intentions to the Saints: Pray the “Hail Mary” prayer or ask your favorite Saint to assist.
4. Don’t worry about perfection: It’s okay if you don’t have the “right” words or if you forget to pray for someone (it’s never too late!). God knows what is in your heart.