There have been many times when I was fighting for my own mental and emotional survival and I felt like I was too weak to pray for anyone else. I wanted to pray for others, because I knew it was God’s Will. But it was all I could do to drag myself to the foot of the cross and ask for help. How could I carry someone else’s burden (Gal. 6:2)?
II Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, God’s Holy Spirit came to live inside my reborn spirit (I Cor. 3:16). And this new spirit gives me access to power, love, and self-discipline. So, if my mind is telling me that I don’t have enough strength to pray for someone else, I can appeal to my spirit for the power, love, and self-discipline to pray for them.
The Power to Pray for Others
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
When I pray for someone, I’m bringing their needs to God. But God lives inside me. God is with me – Immanuel (Matt. 1:23). This means that I’m not carrying their needs that far.
Sometimes I see myself lying at the foot of the throne of grace, unable to even help myself. But while I’m lying there, I can move my hand just enough to take someone else’s prayer request and slide it over to the feet of Jesus. That’s all I’m required to do – carry the burden to Him, not carry the burden forever.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Even if I don’t know what to pray, I can ask God to help me with that, too.
I don’t have to rely on my own strength to pray for others. I bring God my faith – my belief that He is God and He rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6) – and I lay my needs and the needs of others at His feet.
The Love to Pray for Others
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
This seems like such an unrealistic expectation from God. How can I love someone who has hurt me?
But the Greek word for love used in this verse (and so many others in the New Testament) is agape. Agape love has nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with obedience and action.
I don’t have to feel like I love someone to pray for them. I don’t even have to like them. But I am commanded to pray for them, regardless of my feelings.
God knew this would be hard for us, so He made a way for His love to come into our hearts.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
When God prompts me to pray for someone I don’t like, or someone who has hurt me, I can lean on the Holy Spirit for the strength and love to obey.
The Self-Discipline to Pray for Others
Self-discipline requires a stable mind. Mental stability is one of the first things attacked when I’m fighting mental illness.
So how do I pray for others when my thoughts are scattered like pigeons in a dog park?
“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
I have His law – His Word – written in my mind. Mental illness can cover that up with debris from whirlwinds of thought, but it can’t remove it.
This is why reading scripture is so important for me. The way I find stability is by dragging my swirling mind to the Word of God and reminding it of the truth.
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
If I know I need to pray for someone, but am unable to because of my own chaotic thoughts, then the first step is to expose my mind to the peace of God’s Word.
I can pray a scripture over someone in a few seconds. If my mind immediately races away to other things, then as soon as I am able, I bring it back to the Word and pray one more scripture.
By putting the Word into action, I’m obeying the law that gives me freedom. And both I and the person I’m praying for are blessed.
How has God’s Word helped you pray for others when you didn’t think you could?
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