As I’ve confessed, with all my best intentions, I don’t know how to pray for others. I’d like to be able to put aside my ideas and hopes and dreams, good as they may be, and simply come to God with an empty cup. This is challenging, especially when those I love are hurting and I desperately want to see change.
Since I’ve been practicing listening prayer, it’s dawned on me that I can apply this to situations and people I pray for as well. What might that look like? I find it’s helpful to hold those I pray for before God in silence first, asking him to show me how to pray for them. “Lord, what do they need from you today?” If I get no clear directive, I can continue holding them out with empty hands, and ask that he bless or heal them in the way he chooses, or that he grant them forgiveness and peace and a sense of his presence. Sometimes I may hear later how he answered. Other days I may not. That’s not really the point. Lifting people up before God first with open hands and no agenda helps me see them through His eyes. Through eyes of Love. It humbles me and reminds me that there’s nothing I can tell God that he doesn’t already know. It’s helpful to remember he loves them more than I do. It helps me let go and let God, as they say in Twelve Step groups.
I’m encouraged by this from Romans 8: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”
I may not know how to pray but God does know, and I’m comforted by this reminder that His Spirit intercedes and prays along with me as I lift up those for whom I’m burdened.
Today’s prayer practice: The Empty Cup
As you draw near to God, envision an empty cup in your hands that you’re asking him to fill with grace for those on your heart. Ask him to show you how to pray. As you begin, you may want to read the following: “All I see, Lord, is that I am small and insignificant, sinful and unsuccessful. You would have me see that I am, by your adoption, your own son or daughter, never alone or helpless, always with tasks to be done for you, prayers to be said, sheep to be fed. Do not let me pull down the shades and shut out the world, O God, while I sit counting my blessings or my own miseries. There are hurting people, heavy-hearted, with unanswered questions or incurable diseases. May I see them, the love I am capable of giving them, and the love with which you look upon them.” (Edwin Walthall) Invite God to show you how to pray with his compassion as you wait.