Why I Struggle to Pray for People
Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent.” Exodus 33:10 (NIV)
We slipped through the side door into a small room. Women sat on the floor, their books open, while a fan pushed around the sweltering 110+ degree air.
When the lessons were complete, we were introduced. Shy smiles broke down the language and cultural barriers. A handful were Christian believers in the early stages of their faith. Others practiced a different religion.
We asked if they’d share their stories. As one talked, she pointed to her mother standing at the back of the room. Tears pooled as she said that her mother was very ill.
My immediate instinct was to pray for her, but I didn’t act on it.
How would it be received? We were guests in their community, in their culture and in this classroom. But the feeling wouldn’t go away.
As it neared time for us to leave, I whispered to the person who brought us to the class: “I want to pray for the girl’s mother. Is that OK?”
“It’s always acceptable to pray,” she answered.
She asked the girl’s mother to come forward. I rested my hands gently in hers and started to pray. The presence of God sweetly wrapped around us. It was tangible. It was so real. When I opened my eyes, I witnessed girls and women pressing forward, the cluster of faces totally expectant.
They wanted prayer too.
My friend, Lynn, and I prayed for each woman in that room, some of them twice as they came back for more.
It’s always acceptable to pray.
Or is it?
Somehow I’ve allowed my American culture to influence this belief. I’ve been told that it’s intrusive. Unwanted.
In today’s passage, we find Moses in the Tent of Meeting. It’s not a fancy place. It’s smack dab in the middle of the wilderness. But when Moses enters the tent to talk to God, the glory of God sweeps over the tent.
Those standing at a distance are so enthralled with what’s going on before their eyes, they can’t help but worship.
This is such a beautiful picture of prayer.
Moses prayed, most likely for the thousands that wandered in the wilderness. Some believed. Others didn’t. Some followed. Others grumbled. Prayer ministered to Moses, but it also drew others to God.
Has my fear of when and where and how to pray kept me from praying for others?
I think it has, and it’s something I’m asking God to help me with.
My friend in the hard place who’s lacking the words to ask for prayer? I can reach for her hand and let her know that she is not alone.
That stranger in the airport who is flying across country to attend her grandma’s funeral? I can pray for comfort.
There are numerous opportunities around us to pray for people.
We can listen for the tender, gentle voice of God who loves that person, who knows when it’s the right time. He knows when a heart is receptive, or hurting, or wondering if anyone is aware of their pain.
Just the other day, I listened as a friend described a bout with sickness. We were in a public place. Others milled around. Normally I would have listened, promising to pray later.
Can I pray for you?
Right there, right then. We bowed our heads and quietly reached for heaven. Some watched in curiosity. Others joined in. When we were through praying, I felt a hand touch my arm.
Will you pray for me, too?
Yes, absolutely yes.
Do you struggle to pray for people?
Listen to God’s voice. He’ll show you when to pray, and how. He knows who is standing at a distance, their hearts ready to worship Him too.
Dear God, I’ve allowed my culture to tell me that prayer isn’t acceptable when there are people who long to feel Your presence. Give me the courage to say yes to Your invitation to pray for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Exodus 4:15, “You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.” (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Perhaps you struggle to pray for people because you don’t want to offend. Ask God for His guidance.
We have been given a Helper in the form of the Holy Spirit who will help us discern when to pray, and in a way that draws a person to God, rather than pushes them away. Read Romans 8:26-27 and thank God for His role in prayer.
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