Four Ways To Pray In Suffering
If you could only pray for one thing every day for the next 30 days (in hopes that God would answer in the way you desire), what would it be?
Don’t think too hard. Complete transparency here, girls. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
In my sphere of influence, here’s what some of you are asking for…
A better job.
The return of a prodigal child.
Freedom from depression.
Reconciliation in a relationship.
A vacation from the stresses of life.
Though we each have a different story to tell, hardships often rise to the surface of our lives and land us at the feet of Jesus where we find ourselves begging for His intervention and grace. Girl, you’ve landed at the right place. But when we’re tied up in the weight of our every day personal battles, we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture of God’s heart for the world.
Paul’s prayers remained fixed on the heart of God even in the midst of extreme hardship.
Our reading in Colossians 1 today finds Paul under house arrest in Rome, writing to believers in the small city of Colosse. Life was certainly far from perfect. While Paul was awaiting trial in hopes of gaining his physical freedom, the Colossians were facing constant pressure from false teachers who were trying to shake the very foundation of their faith.
Along with these most current hardships, we also know that Paul is living with his perpetual thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12), and that he has already suffered severely for the cause of Christ leading up to this time (you can read a humbling summary in 2 Cor. 11).
We would have understood if Paul had cried out, “Where are you, Lord?” in the midst of this string of trials that have plagued him over the course of his life. We’d completely get it if his words communicated doubt or a desire to give up, and we’d probably high-five him in agreement if his prayers would have sounded a little exasperated from the relentlessness of it all.
But astonishingly, Paul’s letter reflects none of these attitudes.
I see at least four things we can learn from Paul’s prayers on behalf of the Colossians in times of suffering:
1. Pray with a focus on God. “… asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Challenge: Instead of only praying for God to remove your “thorn,” pray that God will fill you with His wisdom and understanding, that you will grow in His likeness and that you will please the Lord and bear fruit for His Kingdom in the midst of your suffering. Boldly pray that regardless of your circumstances, you will be greatly satisfied in God.
2. Pray with a focus on others. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you.”; “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…”
Challenge: Instead of only praying for your own needs, intentionally choose to lift up those in your life who need to be strengthened by God’s power so that they can endure and have patience with joy in their suffering (and then encourage them by letting them know that you are praying for them!). Being others-focused often gives us needed perspective and the opportunity to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Cor. 1:4).
3. Pray with a focus on the gospel. “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…”
Challenge: As a Christ-follower in times of suffering, pray with confidence with your heart set on the truth of the gospel – remembering Christ’s sacrifice and victory over death, the grace in which you now stand (Rom. 5:2), and the fact that your present sufferings do not compare with the glory that will be revealed to you (Rom. 8:18). What an opportunity for the world to see the hope of the gospel lived out through you!
4. Pray with a focus on thanksgiving. “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…”; “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Challenge: Count your blessings – audibly naming them back to the Father in your prayers – and watch your momentary afflictions fade away in the light of His glory and grace.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. ~ James 5:13
At His feet,
*Let’s talk: Are you ready to transform your prayer life in the midst of suffering? In the comments, share your prayer based on one (or more) of the challenges in today’s post…
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