Why healing may not be the only way to pray when someone is suffering

Allison Moore

When I picked up the phone and Mom said, “breast cancer,” I had to stop and think about how to pray for her. I didn’t know if I should pray for healing or be what I used to think was a “good Christian” and just thank God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I was troubled by the Bible’s seemingly contradicting statements until God showed me I didn’t have to choose one or the other. I could do both and pray for even more.

We can’t open social media without reading about suffering. Our lives are filled with family and friends who are in pain physically, mentally, or emotionally. It is hard to not feel confused about how to pray, especially when there’s chronic conditions that are unlikely to pass. We want to pray for the suffering to end, but the Bible says that’s not the only way or even the best way to pray.

Could we dare hope for more than being released from the pain? Could God have more for us than healing?

4 Ways to Pray for Those Who Suffer

1. Healing

James 5:14 calls for the leaders of the church to pray for the sick, so we definitely can start there. But in Matthew 8, a leper came to Jesus and said, “Lord if you are willing will you heal me?”

Why would the Lord not be willing? The point of the question is not whether or not God desires healing for this man. It’s to help us acknowledge the Lord is capable, but at the same time be willing to submit to the possibility of Him doing something other than healing through the sickness.

2. Strength for the journey

Sometimes, God doesn’t remove or release us from the situation but desires to walk with us through the pain instead. In addition to praying for healing, we can pray for strength in the difficult circumstances. This is how Jesus prayed for His disciples in Luke 22:32. Knowing they’d suffer, He prayed that their faith wouldn’t fail them, that they would have strength in the midst of shattering circumstances.

3. Peace

We can’t know a peace that passes our ability to understand until we are in a situation where we desperately need it. This is not your average “Peace be with you” platitude, but a divine, inner calm in the midst of a brand of crazy we never could’ve imagined (Philippians 4:7). We hit our knees in dire situations because there is no equal to the kind of peace only God can grant.

4. Godly growth

James 1 says we’re supposed to count it all joy when we face trials because they will build character in us. Romans 5:4 says we can rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. We may not feel this growth in the midst of the pain, but when we suffer well as we lean into God’s strength He will grow it in us. When Christian friends are going through difficulty, one of the best things we can pray is that suffering brings about growth in their faith.

We’ve all seen those who reflect the beauty of Christ in the midst of even the most dire situations and desire to to be those people when our turn comes. The Bible says we will suffer, but we shouldn’t lose hope because God can always turn the worst into something beautiful if we let Him work through us.

Isaiah 43:2-3 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; ...when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

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