Perhaps the best gift one can give to someone is to pray for them. The most encouraging thing to hear from someone is “I’m praying for you.”
The most important and most intimate thing we do is to talk to God in prayer. What can be more intimate than a conversation with the Almighty God?! What more beautiful image can there be than to think that someone is on their knees in prayer, and while praying to God, they offer your name and your needs. That is so powerful. We definitely don’t do this or talk about this enough. We can all do a better job praying for one another. And imagine how it could change relationships if people talked openly about praying for one another.
Several years ago, I had sinus surgery. I have always had a fear of IVs, even though I’ve had many surgeries in my life. The day before the surgery, I posted on social media that I was having surgery the following day and asked people to pray for me. I got over 300 messages from people that they would be praying for me the morning of the surgery. I also received a lot of messages of encouragement. When I started thinking about 300 people actually pausing in their busy day, in their busy lives, and talking to God about ME, it was actually pretty humbling.
When I was laying on the hospital bed, I asked God to give me a thought that would take me far away from my anxiety about the dreaded IV and impending surgery. I closed my eyes and got lost in my thoughts. The first thought was me running on the old dirt track at my high school. I wondered why God had brought this thought to my mind. I didn’t like high school, running, or the track. In the next moment, I heard a voice that said “you got this.” And I thought, well, at least one person cares about my suffering while running on this track. A few seconds later, there were now hundreds of people in the stands cheering for me. And the effort to run felt lighter. Then the dream shifted to the streets of my town, where hundreds of thousands of people lined the sidewalks cheering for me while I was running in front of them. The running now seemed completely effortless, because I was so inspired by all the encouragement. Then I thought, I’m still the only one on this bed. I’m the only one who is having surgery. However, somehow I didn’t feel alone. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I understood the value of intercessory prayer, whether it comes from the saints or my peers. Because even though I was alone in my situation, in the sense that no one else was going through it or could take it away from me and do it for me, I was not alone. I was surrounded by the prayers and encouragement from many which made my situation somehow easier.
Most of us don’t like running. However, imagine if your whole town came out and lined the streets for you to run. It would somehow be much easier. And when people come out to say they are praying for you, that they are going to God for you, it doesn’t change the roads on which you have to run, but it somehow makes them smoother, and more tolerable.
There is a tangible closeness that occurs between people who pray for each other. There are people I have prayed for over the course of many years, even people that I don’t see for years. And then when I see them, it was like we were together only yesterday. I can honestly say to them “I was just thinking about you,” or “I think about you every day” because in my prayers, I do.
One of the most encouraging things you can offer someone is your prayers, to take their name and their needs to God in prayer, and also to tell them that. It always makes me feel good when someone says “I am praying for you.”
Make a list of five people to pray for each day. If each person does that, all of us will end up on at least five lists. Tell your five people that you are praying for them. This will keep you accountable to pray for them and will give you a solid bond that won’t be broken even if they are people you do not see often.
Everyone is going to run down an “empty street” someday—it might be a health crisis, a job loss, a death in the family, or some other trauma that will make each of us think that we are running alone. Each of us has the ability to go to God for someone, to be that person on the sidewalk cheering and praying, which will not necessarily mean a person won’t have to run down a difficult road, but that they won’t have to run it alone.
Encourage others by praying for them. Going to God for someone else is the most beautiful gift you can offer them.
Lord, thank You for the gift of friends that I have (list five friends you are praying for). Please be with these people today on whatever road they are walking. Give to them wisdom, patience, health and peace. Lord, be also with the people who don’t have friends, and who feel alone. Lead them to others, lead others to them. Help me to see those who don’t have enough people around them and move my heart with compassion to not only see them but to embrace them as well. Amen.
Make a list of a few people you want to pray for. Tell those people you are praying for them daily, that you are going to God for them. And then see how this not only improves your prayer life but your relationships as well.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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