My dad was a minister, so growing up I experienced a behind the scenes look at almost every aspect of what it meant to pastor a church- except for praying with someone personally. It’s not as though my dad wasn’t praying with people. He certainly was. It’s just that I rarely saw my dad in those moments. They were, understandably, private in nature, so I didn’t have the same amount of exposure to those interactions. Consequently, when I went into ministry myself, I felt uncharacteristically out of my element when it came to praying with someone personally. Every other facet of doing ministry seemed like second nature to me. It was all very familiar. But not praying with someone. Those were uncharted waters. And that made me very uncomfortable. I felt unsure about what to say or how much to say and in truth I think I avoided those opportunities for quite some time. It’s not that people didn’t ask me to pray for them. They did. I simply said that I would be sure to do so and then moved the conversation along.
Can you relate? Have you ever found yourself in conversation with someone who clearly needed prayer, only to let the moment pass instead of taking advantage of the opportunity? It’s so much easier to offer our ‘thoughts and prayers’ rather than taking that uncomfortable step of asking, ‘Would it be alright for me to pray with you right now?’
“What if they say, ‘Yes!’? What then?” These are the worries that flood our minds in those moments. We fear we’ll look foolish, or that we’ll say something wrong.
Fortunately, there are no rules about how we are to go about praying for someone. The key is to remember that God is the one who brings about any change in a person’s life, not us, and He has assured us that His Spirit is at work in our hearts, even to the point of speaking words when our own fail us. There’s something significant that happens when we take hold of the moment and pray with someone- the grace of God has an open invitation to begin working in that person’s life and in ours as well.
If you want to take advantage of opportunities to pray with someone, here are a few pointers that have been of help to me.
First, when you find yourself in conversation with someone who needs prayer, simply ask: Would it be alright for me to pray with you right now? Once you’ve asked, listen for their reply. Sometimes a person might feel uncomfortable with you praying for them in that moment. If they say ‘no’ simply reply, ‘Ok. Well, please know I will be praying for you later.’ Then by all means remember to do so.
Second, if they agree to let you pray for them don’t panic. This is a beautiful chance for God to work His grace through you and into this person’s life. If you are afraid, simply ask God silently for courage.
Third. if this conversation is happening online or on the phone there’s no need to worry about what do with your hands or how close you should be as you pray. But if you are in person, it would be good to ask, “Can I put my hand on your shoulder?” And then comply as they wish.
Fourth- Begin to pray. If you lack words, try to remember this simple acrostic: P. R. A. Y.
P - Praise God(“Thank you God that You love us and hear our prayers. We praise you in all circumstances.”)
R - Remember the Need(“We pray for ______ and their broken foot.”)
A - Ask God to Intercede(“Lord help it heal quickly, help them as they manage their crutches and provide for their needs.”)
Y - Yield to His Way(“In all things, God, You are in control. We thank You for Your hand on this issue.”)
If we struggle for words in our prayer, just remember to P.R.A.Y.
Finally, it’s good to remember this is not our time to shine in trying to come up with eloquent prayers that shift attention back onto us instead of God. Ultimately He is the source of strength and healing. Let Him be God and just be yourself. I’m always amazed at the words I’m prompted to speak when guided by the Spirit of God, even if my prayer is only a few words long. In any case, it’s hard to go wrong when we keep our words short and simple.
I hope that these suggestions will be of help to you when the opportunity arises for you to pray with someone. It’s important to maintain a regular prayer life if we want to develop this skill. The more we pray, the more our confidence and competence grows. This also helps align our hearts with God so we are in tune with Him as we pray for someone.