Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Praying for Others: You, the Other and the Spirit

We are on part two of our series on praying for others. Last week, we talked about how we can have faith in the power of the Spirit, in the presence of Christ with us and in the boundless love of Christ. We also talked about how, as children of God, we have full access to all that God has and that God wants what is best for us. We are called to be faithful and pray. We have hope because Christ loves us and Christ has the power to heal us.

 

Today, I will talk about how when we pray, we never pray alone. The Holy Spirit is always with us in prayer. Our prayers are heard by God because the Holy Spirit speaks on our behalf. When we pray for others, we are in a three-way conversation between the other person, the Holy Spirit and us. In our prayers, the Holy Spirit joins with us to do a good work in the life of the person we are praying for. That good work may be physical healing; it may be drawing the other person into a deeper awareness of God’s love. Today, we answer the question, how do we engage in the three-way conversation with the Holy Spirit as we pray for someone? How do we sit with someone and pray with them for help with the troubles of their life? At Place of Grace Fellowship, our values are welcome, transform and unite. Prayer opens us up to the life of another person as we welcome them to join with us in prayer. Nothing transforms a life more than prayer. Prayer unites us to Christ through the Holy Spirit and to each other through our presence together before God.

 

Our Scripture today is Romans, chapter 8, verses 26-30.

 

Romans 8:26-30 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

Our Roman’s passage tells us the Holy Spirit is there for us, to help us pray. In my experience praying for others, I have sought the presence of the Holy Spirit in my conversations with them and during our prayer time. The conversations that I have had with them were never two-way, but always three-way. I needed the wisdom of the Spirit to help guide my ear to hear what needed to be heard and my tongue to say what needed to be said. Wisdom, discernment and knowledge are gifts of the Spirit. As followers of Christ, we can always invite the Spirit into our conversations and our prayers.

 

Verse 26 tells us that the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. The Spirit dwells within the saints and prays with us. The Spirit helps us discern God’s will and concern for people we pray for. Even if we aren’t clear what God’s will may be, the Spirit intercedes for us as we pray. Our prayers don’t have to be perfect or get it all right because the Spirit knows the will of the Father and prays with us accordingly.

We have women in this church sharing prayer requests on a large group text. These women diligently pray for urgent needs for healing, protection, good outcomes from surgery, renewed strength, resilience and God’s presence when loss is imminent. No matter how many are on that group text, there is One more. One who intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

 

The Holy Spirit works with us to do good in people’s lives and in our community. The Spirit guides our prayers and our interventions for good into a fallen world. Like us, the Romans were caught between the kingdom of heaven and living here on earth. The powers of evil assault us each day and assault God’s creation as well. It is Christ who defeats the powers of evil. When we pray, we join with Christ through the Spirit to fight against evil and fix suffering in the world. On our own, we are weak, but the Spirit helps us in our weakness to bring good to the world through our prayers. During our worship service, when we offer our prayers, the Spirit offers our prayers with us. As the body of Christ, we speak healing and restoration into the lives of those suffering. We speak good into the broken world around us.

 

We have the Spirit of Christ working within us, through us and beyond us. The Spirit joins with the inner sighs of our heart and brings them before God. The Spirit speaks through us to bring God into the world. The Spirit speaks beyond us to carry our prayers to God the Father on our behalf.

 

God and the Spirit are of one mind. They search our hearts for our deepest groans. Our prayers of joy, frustration, need, or pain are grabbed by the Spirit’s silent intercession on our behalf. The Spirit brings the prayers of God’s children before God. While we live in our weakness, we have the peace and joy of Christ. In our weakness, the Spirit carries our needs to God. In our peace and joy, the Spirit comes alongside us and supports us in our steadfastness and determination to bring goodness into our world.

 

The world needs the goodness of Christ. As Christians, when we face challenges and disappointments and even when we see acts of unthinkable evil, we take heart from verse 28: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

 

What Paul says is for those who love God, in all things, the Spirit works with us to do good within the world and our church. We, who are called by God for God’s purposes, together with the Spirit, we bring good into the world. We bring good into the world through our prayers and through our actions.

 

I know that this is not the translation many of you have heard. On the one hand, God does work all things for good for those who believe, but it may not happen until we live with Christ for eternity. On the other hand, today, the Holy Spirit works with us to make the world a better and fairer place. It cooperates with us as we make the world better in the service of God. It lends assistance as we work to bring Christ’s kingdom here. The divine activity of the Spirit with us leads to good even in the midst of trouble. We have co-responsibility with the Spirit to face adversity and to accomplish good. To bring mercy and redemption to a tragic situation. Paul encourages us to cooperate with the Spirit working in all things for good.

 

Our willing cooperation with the Spirit is crucial to praying for others.

 

The wisest advice about prayer I ever received came from my chaplain mentor. After only a week of training, I and my cohort of new chaplains were set loose on the wards of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago.

 

This was a level-three trauma hospital, with a women’s hospital, a psych ward, a busy ER, hospice care, cancer treatment center, neurology, coronary and other specialty departments, and numerous intensive care units. Was I scared—yes—petrified. My mentor told us not to worry. He said that 90% of being a chaplain was showing up and being present. He was right. Our words were not that important. Being with a patient or their family members and being fully present, accompanied by the Holy Spirit, made all the difference. Together with the Spirit, I could accomplish good work with my visitations.

 

I learned to never pray for someone or visit the sick without first asking the Holy Spirit to join me. I expected the Holy Spirit to walk in that room with me. Today’s passage tells us that the Holy Spirit will join with us.  Joined with the Holy Spirit, my presence brought comfort to a suffering person.

 

One evening on the ward, I was called to the waiting room in the cardiac ward. The nurses were harried and asked me to manage a situation for them. They introduced me to a family that had immigrated from Mexico. Most of the family did not speak English. A few spoke broken English. Their mother came in for a routine heart valve replacement. Something went terribly wrong, and she died in recovery. No one expected that to happen. The family was in shock and bedlam described the waiting room. I needed the Holy Spirit. Despite the language barrier, I helped with the details of the moment and helped the family gain some composure. A Spirit filled presence brought calm to the chaos. I helped the family understand that the nurses were preparing their mom for them to see. With the Spirit, the family relaxed and found patience. After hours of waiting with me, they were able to see their mother. I offered a short prayer. Then one of the daughters joined the whole family in prayer and I was a spectator in a sacred moment as the family came together to grieve the loss of their mother. My words were worthless. In that moment, a Spirit filled presence made all the difference, If the Spirit did not walk in that room with me, my presence would not have helped.

 

There is nothing special about me. I just expect the Spirit to be with me because that is what Scripture tells me.

 

Place of Grace Fellowship, we can bring good to people around us. We can ask the Holy Spirit to be present with us when we visit with people. We can expect the Spirit to join us, powerfully and compassionately, in prayer for them. I want to share some practical guidance for praying for others, in three words: Respect, Empathy and Discernment

 

 

Respect When praying for someone, you must respect them. Hold them in high regard. If you hold them in less regard, they will instantly know and pull away. Some people you pray for may not deserve high regard. It doesn’t matter. Choose to hold them in the best possible light. If you cannot, do not pray. Remember that Christ died for them, that they might become sons and daughters of God. Let the Spirit show you the love of Christ for that person. On another night, I visited the room of a young woman who was dying from a Tylenol overdose.  Her liver had failed, and she was unconscious and close to death. Her mother was by her bedside in deep pain. The mother hadn’t really talked to any one about her daughter. Without words, others had communicated to the mom that her daughter had attempted suicide. Others didn’t hold her daughter or her in high regard, so the mom had pushed them away. I was able to not judge the situation and I was able to lean in with empathy. That evening, the mom told me the story of her daughter’s fatal night. Then she shared memories of her beautiful daughter’s life. It was a profoundly sad and yet sacred night. The circumstances that brought the mom and daughter to that room did not matter. Both were children of God and deserved the highest possible regard.

 

Jesus talked to many unworthy people. How many times in the life of Jesus did the religious people ask, “Why is a teacher talking to them?” Jesus held the outcasts in high regard.   

 

Empathy Empathy starts with listening. Ask them to tell their story to you. Express genuine interest in their life. Avoid talking about yourself; no one who needs prayer needs to hear your story. You can use your own experience to connect with them, but don’t assume you know how they feel. In Fact, I would never say, “I know how you feel.” Encourage them to continue sharing by asking open-ended questions.

 

Discernment When you have listened to them, quietly ask the Holy Spirit what to discern from the conversation. Discernment is meant to give you words that bless the person. Be aware that the Holy Spirit may be sharing something with them too. The Spirit will help you give back what you have heard in prayer. Do not go beyond what the person has shared with you. If they wanted to share more, they would have. The Spirit will join with you to carry what’s in their heart to God.

 

In conversations leading up to prayer, we often want to share the Gospel with people. We know the Gospel can change their life. Use wisdom here. People in crisis cannot mentally process a lot of new information. They do not need a systematic theology. Share a portion that speaks directly to their needs. As we talked about last week, focus on faith in the enormous love of Christ and transforming power of the Spirit.

 

It is now the moment of truth; you can pray for them. They may not remember what you say, but they will remember that you were fully present with them. The moment you share with them will be Spirit filled. Because of the Spirit’s presence, they will never forget the time you prayed for them in their need.

 

When you say your good-byes, you will have labored alongside the Holy Spirit to bring good into the world. You will have cooperated with the Spirit working all things toward good. The person you prayed for will have seen a glimpse of God’s glory shine through your life.

 

Praying for another person is a sacred call. It is a call any Christian can answer and should answer. We are faithful when we pray for others. We are hopeful when we trust in the Spirit to give the person what they need. We can trust in the presence of the Spirit and the power of God to bring good into the world through our prayers. The Holy Spirit will always be there. Over the years, I have come to expect the presence of the Spirit. The Spirit has never let me down. The prayers offered for another will be received and we can hope to receive the healing we desire. In all cases, the Spirit carries the prayer to God the Father, and the prayer brings good into the world and peace to the person who receives the prayer.

 

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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