By Kerry Krissel
QUICK SUMMARY: Alright, I admit it. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, I do not know how to pray for someone. And sometimes, infrequently really, I do not even know how to pray for myself. There, I said it. It feels good to get it off my chest. Yeah, yeah, I know, I am a pastor, how I could I not know how to pray? The answer is, it is quite easy. Either I do not know them well enough to do the real work of tackling their struggles head on, or I am as frustrated with what they are facing as they are. Maybe, just maybe, it is because we lack the belief that what we want to pray for, will ever happen. Or maybe it is because we do not know our Bibles well enough, or we do not have sufficient experience with prayer.
In this article we will cover four groupings of requests to make for yourself and/or others who struggle with depression… or any other struggle for that matter!
- How to Not Stop Praying for Someone… Ask for knowledge, wisdom, understanding.
- Ask God That the Way They Then Live Will… Honor him, bear fruit, build relationship.
- Also Pray That They Will… Be strengthened, endure, be patient, have joy, be thankful.
- Since He Has… Shared his inheritance, rescued, transferred, purchased, forgiven.
Looking for more? Keep reading!
GO DEEPER: (Read the “Quick Summary” first.) Understandably, some people take the thoughtless, lazy way out and say something like, “God bless so-and-so.” I know, that was a little blunt. But I suggest it only because it sometimes describes my efforts as much as anyone’s. The trouble with “God bless so-and-so” prayers is that you do not ever know if God answered. What exactly does “God bless” look like? That is why I personally hate long prayer lists that have many, maybe dozens, of names on them. You get so may requests that you cannot possibly pray a thoughtful, meaningful, direct, compassionate, specific, careful, loving prayer. Let alone “wrestle” or fight in prayer with them over a particular issue. So, we resort to what I call “Maria Prayers.” Watch “The Sound of Music,” you will get it.
When it comes to praying for ourselves, or another who is depressed, it can be hard to know what to ask for. I get tired of saying, “God, break their depression” over and over. It is not so much that it is a bad prayer as it gets very boring! There are only so many ways to vary that. “Break their depression, God.” “Break, oh God, their depression!” If I am particularly sharp that day, I may substitute a synonym for break and say “lift” or “crush” or “remove” or even “deliver!” Don’t give me that, you know you do it too!
A Better Way
Fortunately, there is a much better way. The Bible has any number of examples. The famous “Lord’s Prayer” is better titled “The Disciples Prayer.” It is extracted from Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ request, “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1ff). Yes, Jesus spoke it, but it was for the disciples to use. As I mentioned in my blog from the other day, the Psalms provide excellent fodder—raw material that feeds our prayers. They are almost all sample prayers. Some are songs and many are poems, but they all demonstrate in vivid color how to have an honest chat with God. (Click here for… Facing Depression: David’s Radical Prayer Pattern)
This past year I decided to read the Bible a little differently. I read the same book of the Bible over and over for weeks on end so I could better digest that content. Several months ago, I got to the letter that Paul wrote to the ancient church in a place called “Colosse.” Reading it through several times revealed a perfect prayer pattern in the first chapter. So perfect that it fell into a rather nice outline when I tried to organize what Paul was saying a little. Every point is useful, but I especially thought that verses 11-12a (Letter “C”) addressed the needed practice of the depressed. If they were given the strength to endure patiently their emotions, or lack thereof, by focusing their thinking on what brings them joy, and what they are thankful for, it should be of some, if not a great deal of help. That is, to those who do not need the assistance of a medical doctor first.
Some Flesh for the Bones
Before you dive in, notice that after many of the bullets there are parentheses that look like this, “(See also…).” That is meant to direct you to other places in the letter that seem to reflect back, fleshing out the particulars further. It seems Paul (or God speaking through him) intended that this opening should be a sort of thematic prelude to much of the letter. Take a look and I will chat with you quickly on the other side.
How to Pray for Someone
A. How to Not Stop Praying for Someone (verse 9)
- Ask God to Give – Complete knowledge (to know about, definitely, thoroughly) of his will (see 3:18-4:1, 4:12)
- Ask God to Give – Spiritual wisdom (understand and act wisely, prudently) (see 2:23, 3:23, 4:5-6; comp. Proverbs 2:6-12 – find God, find wisdom.)
- Ask God to Give – (Spiritual) Understanding (to bring together, agree, comprehend, insight) (2:16-23)
B. Ask God That the Way They Then Live Will… (verse 10)
- Always Honor & Please the Lord
- Produce Every Kind of Good Fruit (see 3:5-15)
- Bring Growth – As They Learn to Know God Better & Better (see 2:7, 10, 28b, 3:10)
C. Also Pray That They Will… (verses 11-12a)
- Be Strengthened – With All His Glorious Power (11)
- Have All Endurance & Patience Needed (11, see 2:7a)
- Be Filled with Joy (11)
- Always Thank the Father (12a, see 2:7b, 3:15-17)
D. Since He Has… (verses 12b-14)
- Shared His Inheritance (12b, See1:4-5, 27)
That Belongs to His People – Who Live in The Light (12b, See 1:21-22)
- Rescued Us from The Kingdom of Darkness (13, See 2:12-15)
- Transferred Us into The Kingdom of His Dear Son
- Purchased Our Freedom (14)
- Forgave Our Sin (See 2:12-15)
There You have It
It is not all that complicated, and once you read Paul’s specifics it all seems somewhat obvious. This outline will put some real meat in your prayers for anyone, no matter who they are or where they are in life. And this stuff is much easier to look for because of how specific it is. Notice that the last group (numbers 11-15) provides astonishing specifics for numbers nine (9) and ten (10). After you have been using it for several weeks you will memorize these requests and be able to pray a strong prayer without the outline anymore.
Oh, and should you pray for someone who is depressed but not sure yet where they are with the whole Jesus thing, not sure what they believe about him, you can pray them into all this. Do not pray for their current state as they have not yet “crossed the line.” Pray that they will one day make the transition into God’s family, into all this richness, and into all this maturity, when they do!
If anything you read hit home, raised questions, or helped you realize you could use some help, follow this link to get in touch with a Two Rivers coach.