Why is it that you have so much faith when praying for others in need,
but never for yourself?
Someone you know is facing impossible odds—cancer, unemployment in a down economy, a wayward child who appears lost for good. They come to you for prayer because they know you believe that God will make the impossible possible.
And yet, when you are facing your own impossible situation, the idea that God might actually make a way for you where there is no way seems a remote reality at best and never in a million years at worst. Your own track record appears to bear this out. Great things happen for others because you have faith for them, but as for yourself….
Many of us have been there. In fact, I have reason to believe that most American Christians suffer from this kind of inferiority complex when it comes to believing that God isn't just on the side of the other guy.
When I was running the Sunday evening prayer team ministry at my former church, I routinely encountered Christians who prefaced their request for prayer with this issue. They'd believed in the past for others, but their own problem lay daunting in their path. Sometimes, I think every third person confessed this fear that when they most needed help, God was too busy helping others to lend an ear to their "petty" problem.
Now I can include a million verses here contrary to that mistaken notion, but the fact is that the people who suffer from this (and most of us do to some extent) already know the verses. We just need to believe them.
Other posts in this series:
15 thoughts on “Gut Check #6”
I don’t know. I think I have a problem with praying in general. I ask God to intercede in the situations of others or myself (not as often for myself) but I don’t often ask “if it’s your will.” Like if I’m praying for someone’s dying child I ask for healing and direct intercession. I don’t know.
A long time ago, when I was proud of God’s sovereignty and a person asked for prayer for their dying grandchild, I remember praying for God to work according to his will, in public. Yet, now that I’m a parent I don’t think I would ever pray like that for my children if they’re dying “God, save my child, but only if it’s your will.” I don’t think I have faith like that. Mine is more the selfish variety “God save, God intercede, God heal.” I don’t know. It’s probably why I don’t like praying in public so much anymore and it’s probably why my private prayer life stinks.
proud is the wrong word. More like touting. sorry. I reread and noticed I’m making very little sense.
I think we’re always afraid to pray big prayers because we’re afraid of the outcome being the opposite of what we pray for.
As a little encouragement, in my bolder days I once told a guy whose friend was in a horrible bicycle accident (struck by a car and in a “permanent vegetative state”) that his friend would fully recover. We prayed to that end. But my roommate, who knew us both, thought that I was insane for praying like that and saying such a thing. But sure enough, against all odds, the guy in the coma snapped out of it one day. The guy I’d prayed with later became a Christian because of that whole incident. I found this out after running into him at a Christian conference.
Those things happen. We pray big prayers, but we have to hear from God in some cases before we do.
I am a firm believer that when someone asks for prayer that it is better to not say “I will pray for you” but to stop right there and actually pray with that person. And for a long time I was somewhat troubled when the person asking for prayer had a friend or relative that was in jail, or arrested, or ill, or whatever situation in a place where God could get that friend or relative’s attention and draw that friend or relative into a deeper relationship with God . . . so then why should I pray that God would remove the friend or relative from where God wanted him/her to be. Then I heard Ed Young or Charles Stanley on the radio or TV talking about how they always want to be careful to not pray against the will of God. If God brings a disease or illness upon a person and God is using that situation to knock the props out from under that person so that the person will rely solely upon God (see 2 corinthians 1:8-9), who am I to pray to undermine what God is working. And then I learned from Romans 8 that the Holy Spirit intercedes when we pray, because even with our willing hearts, we don’t know the mind of God. So now when I am with someone and I pray out loud for that person’s friend or relative, I will do it as the Holy Spirit leads me for whatever I can see that God might accomplish, and I will mention the desired outcome requested by the prayer-seeker, but then I will qualify the entire prayer by saying that our entire prayer request is being petitioned to God subject to His more perfect will. And I will also spend a significant portion of the prayer in being thankful for God being sovereign and His providing all of the blessings that have placed this friend or relative into the exact position that he/she is in.
Have you read my post The Little Things: Unkept Prayer Promises?
I disagree, though, with the position of Young/Stanley. We are to continue to pray for the best possible outcome. If there is sickness, we pray for health. If there is financial loss, we pray pray for more money. The Bible is exceptionally clear on asking for those kinds of needs.
I also disagree with qualifying prayer. The only example of qualifying prayer that comes to mind is Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane before his crucifixion. That prayer had unique attributes that I do not believe carry over into all circumstances.
James teaches that a double-minded man cannot expect to receive anything. I think that qualifying our prayers is more a lack of faith on our parts and falls into that double-mindedness. You never see a prayer prayed before a miracle in the Bible that had any qualifiers on it. In fact, the doubters were scolded by Jesus.
Pray in faith. Do not doubt. No qualifications. God desires to hear bold prayers, not qualified ones.
Dan: No, I had not seen your post, but I agree with it. I do not disagree with Young/Stanley, but God alone knows what He is doing and is planning on doing in someone’s life to bring them into a deeper walk with Him. Yes, a part of my prayer in this situation (praying with someone on the spot when prayer is requested) is a Supplication, but the bigger purpose of my prayer is to glorify God, whether in the form of Adoration, Confession or Thanksgiving. For me, ideally supplication comes at the end of all of those, like the acronym A-C-T-S, but I admit that there might not always be time for all of those elements when saying a quick prayer with someone.
What you label as “qualifying prayer” is the single part of my prayer that absolutely lines up 100% with the will of God, and that is the part of submission to the will of God. I am not in the least bit worried about whether or not God will answer the prayer in the manner that I have requested. It is more important that my prayer with the requester takes our eyes off of the immediate situation and re-focuses them on God Himself, as in Who He Is and not what He can do for us in this situation. I want to pray to let the requester know that the Holy Spirit is indeed interceding and will work through our prayers for God’s glory and our good, even though the requested action might or might now actually be the best for the friend or relative.
I have no problems at all for praying for needs. I don’t doubt that God will work through miracles or acts of providence or will provide encouragement through God’s grace sufficient to endure the situation. I will be the first to explain to that person that victory is not a result of prayer or faith, but instead victory is keeping the faith in the promises of God when we are up to our necks in alligators, as the Cajun saying goes. It is not double-minedness to admit that God’s omniscience is greater than my knowledge, and that humble submission to God’s plans is better than pressing on for my narrow-minded solutions. Blessings to you, Steve
I don’t have much of a problem praying for myself, it’s sharing requests with others that gets me. The woman who runs the prayer chain at our church is the one we have to pry requests from…It’s always “not that important” or she didn’t want to “burden” anyone. Not sure if it’s a spiritual inferiority complex, or simple martyrdom, but there does seem to be a tendancy to take one’s own problems as somehow less important than anothers. I think we think that the Bible calls us to put other peoples needs as more important than our own. Not necessarily true. Others are as important as we are. Equality in all things, you know. But God wants us to share all things. Because helping one another in our weakness, makes us all stronger.
Not that I am an example. How many times have I passed over things because “it wasn’t than important” and so deprived my fellow travellers of the joy of coming before the throne of Grace with a need that He is only too happy to meet?
In the case of the prayer chain leader, who knows. I’ve found that many times in ministry people volunteer for the one thing they’re ill-equipped to handle simply because they feel they need to grow in that area. This causes all sorts of nuttiness. Better to let the church leaders look out for the right people and suggest they consider a specific ministry role rather than have people elect themselves to it.
I think that the problem with a lot of people is not that they doubt God’s love or power to answer prayer, but instead they doubt the personal nature of God. When it comes to prayer there is much unbelief that God will answer their prayer and that although He may intend good for the church as a whole, He doesn’t good for me in my particular situation. I can ask people their thoughts about the goodness of God, His love, wisdom and power and they will all give Scriptural, but then when it comes to practical application or how they live out what they believe there is a disconnect.
Astute observation; you’re exactly right.
I don’t really have a problem faithfully praying for myself… my issue has more to do with faithfully RECEIVING (or even SEEING) the answers to those prayers… I’m an easy forgetter of the things God has done – I seem to pray and forget! LOL… so that when those answers DO come, I simply don’t recognize them… certainly this is not a constant issue for me, but it does occur in my life. I probably need to keep a prayer journal – – but then, I’d probably forget where I laid it down!
Having a charismatic background, I hear the receiving thing a lot. The only problem I have with that is that many times we have faith for the receiving, but not for God’s provision. That;s a subtle difference that lies in what we ultimately have faith in, God or our own ability to receive.
In my ministry, I have often referred those who find it difficult to pray for themselves to the Psalms. Making David’s words and requests personal often teaches us to pray well … and to pray for ourselves!
Thanks for the timely reminder!
May I expand on the disappointment issue raised earlier by Dan. It is one thing to pray passionately for someone else and that prayer “bombs” – doesn’t come to pass. We can distance ourself from the questions raised and ghastly letdown.
When our prayer “outcomes” are so amiss from what we asked, even if it melds to bible verses, the reminders of letdown are constant. Some outcomes of my prayers were so unsettling I figure well, I’ll just throw some stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Don’t ask for something that God might not grant; ask for something He might answer.
A greater surrender is needed. Weren’t we told to wait on the Lord?