We all know it’s true – prayer matters – and, whether we are formal counsellors or supportive friends, we realise we should be praying for those who struggle. But how should we pray? Do we weight our intercessions towards symptom relief or sanctification? Do we ask for circumstances to change or the hope to carry on? They’re questions that can confuse and cloud our times of prayer.
There’s no one set prayer to say. God loves to hear any request that stems from our desire to see others grow and thrive in him. But a good way of ensuring we pray in line with Jesus’ priorities is to use the prayer he taught his disciples as a guide (Matthew 6:9-13). Never thought of applying the Lord’s Prayer to counselling? Try something like this for those we love – and ourselves too:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name
Every hurting person needs to know what God is like. First and foremost, it’s important to pray we all see God as our heavenly Father who seeks real relationship with us. We can pray we will see clearly that his nature overflows with sovereignty, love, holiness, grace, power and intimacy – and not just see it, but acknowledge it in word and action. We can pray, as we all read Scripture, that we will grasp how awesome and tender the Lord truly is – and choose to run to him in times of trouble.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
As we see God more clearly and run to him more freely, we can pray that we will become ever more accepting of his will and willing to worship him rightly. That doesn’t mean praying for some kind of fatalistic acquiescence to a higher power (and it certainly doesn’t mean idle passivity in the face of abuse). But it does mean praying for an ever-increasing confidence in the one who loves us the most and a growing desire to be faithful in every aspect of our lives whether the hard times continue or not. Pain isn’t sent to destroy God’s children but to build us into something extraordinarily beautiful. It is part of God’s plan to build his church until such time as he returns and ushers in the new heavens and new earth.
Give us today our daily bread
God does not leave us ill-equipped in times of trouble, by his Spirit he gives us everything we need for life and godliness. We can pray for one another that we will run to the Lord each day for the strength to carry on – in body and mind – confident that he will not withhold what is necessary to follow him. For some of us, God’s daily provision may include a change in circumstances for the better. For others, things may stay the same on the outside – but he will sustain us all until he calls us home.
And forgive us our debts and we also have forgiven our debtors
We can pray too for hearts that love being forgiven and forgiving others. The Bible talks about God lavishing his grace on people like us – it calls us to lavish grace on those who have wounded us. Such processes are rarely achieved swiftly, restored relationships are hard to build, but we can be praying for humble repentance, a passion to believe God when he declares us clean and a desire to bless others even when it is far from deserved.
And lead us not into temptation
Pain is not the cause of our sin but it is often the occasion for it: tough times expose our idolatrous desires, exhaustion strips away our veneers of respectability. But, by the Spirit, we can either flee or fight the temptation around it. We can pray for each other to stand firm and not give in to the draw of anger, bitterness, inertia or lack of faith.
But deliver us from the evil one
And, finally, we can pray that we will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus until such time as he returns, Satan is destroyed and our struggles are over – forever. The end is coming, the pain will be over one day, there will be perfection without end. We can pray for minds that remember and hearts that rejoice in what is to come.
It’s a framework – not a formula – but one that can breathe real joy and purpose into our prayers. Why not think of a friend who is struggling and pray for them now?