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Our Prayers for the Sick: Physically or Spiritually Minded?

God drastically changed my prayer life a few years ago. One particular change is that I have been praying based on my knowledge God’s will. It may seem like a bold statement to claim that I know God’s will for the people on my prayer list. But the truth is, we do know it! We just don’t often pray according to what we know. Our prayers are usually focused on the physical and rarely on the spiritual. It’s true that we don’t know God’s will as far as physical issues being helped, but how often do we pray for the more important matters—the spiritual matters—the matters with which God is most concerned?

In every physical need, there is a spiritual need as well. For example, if I’m praying for a friend who is sick in bed and has little children to care for, I don’t know if it is God’s will for her to feel well the next day or to be sick for another week. But I do know that it is God’s will for her to trust Him and to show His love and patience to her needy children even when she doesn’t feel good. Those are the more important matters, the matters I should focus on in my prayers for her. Yes, I can and should pray for her physical healing as well, but God is more concerned about her spiritual responses during that time. If she spends the whole time she’s sick throwing a mental pity party and getting frustrated every time a child said “Mommy”, her spiritual life is sick as well. And that will continue to affect her and those around her even when she is physically healthy.

In most instances in the Bible where the writer mentions praying for a person or a group of people, the prayer is spiritually minded. Paul’s prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 is that the church would “abound in love one toward another”. His prayer for the Ephesians is that God would give them “wisdom . . . in the knowledge of Him” (1:17), that they would know His power (1:19), that they would “be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (3:16), that they would be rooted in love, know Christ’s love, and “be filled with all the fulness of God” (3:17, 19). Paul prayed for the Colossians to know God and His will, to “walk worthy of the Lord”, to be fruitful, to be enabled by God’s power to be patient, joyful, and thankful (1:9-12). Peter prays for believers that God would “make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” after they had suffered (1 Peter 5:10). How different our prayers are from the example laid out before us! It seems that most of our spiritually minded prayers center around salvation for the lost and wisdom for ourselves, but the specific requests listed above are daily needs in the Christian life, and even more so when we are weighed down physically.

We need to consider God’s will concerning the people and circumstances for which we pray. We need to see situations as He sees them, with His goal of our Christlikeness in mind, so that we can pray with assurance that our desires are lined up with His. Here are just a few verses to focus on as we think about God’s will for the people and situations on our prayer list:

· Proverbs 3:5 – He wants us to trust Him.

· John 14:27 – He wants us to be at peace.

· John 15:17 – He wants us to be loving.

· 1 Corinthians 10:31 – He wants everything to be done for His glory.

· 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – He wants us to focus on eternal things.

· 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – He wants us to depend on His grace and strength.

· Philippians 4:4 – He wants us to be joyful in Him always.

· 1 Peter 5:6-7 – He wants us to give all our concerns to Him as we humble ourselves under His authority.

As mentioned earlier, we should certainly pray for physical needs. Philippians 4:6 tells us to pray about everything that might cause us to be anxious and to bring our requests to God. But we must recognize that we and our fellow Christians are fighting a spiritual battle alongside the physical one and pray for each other in that regard. We need to see things from God’s point of view. His desire for Christians is that we be conformed to the image of Christ, and every situation in life can bring us closer to that goal as we respond correctly. So let’s hold each other up in prayer to that spiritual end!

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