“That’s enough!” I said to the Father, as if I were in any position to give directions or advice to The Almighty. I said it without thinking. I was just so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t feel anything but frustration. I watched my client of several years looking frail as she acknowledged through tired eyes, that she was off to do another round of chemotherapy; her breast cancer had returned.
My heart broke for her and I felt I had to do something, but what could be done? “I’m not a doctor nor a magician.” I thought. Flowers are near pointless at a time like that and throwing a few pennies toward her medical expenses seemed shallow. After a few more moments of trying to distract ourselves with business, I paused in the middle of our storefront and sheepishly asked, “…Can I pray for you?” Her countenance immediately lifted, and we both tearfully approached the throne, asking for her healing, believing for her to receive the courage to go on.
Later that night, I spoke frankly with the Lord, asking Him why He was taking so long to end her suffering. Then I thought of a friend, preparing to deliver after two late stage miscarriages, and yet another friend who was struggling to conceive. I thought of the prayers I’d been sending up amidst my own frustration with the struggles of daily life. Then I thought of all the pain people I knew were walking through, and how it made my issues seem so small. I spoke to God, not about anything I desired, but simply asking Him to change things in the lives of those around me, because in that moment, it seemed that they needed my prayers far more than I did.
Sometimes our greatest service to others can be to pray for them. To fix our thoughts on their broken hearts and lift up their needs above our own. We toss around phrases like “I’m praying for you”, or “You’re in our prayers…”, but how often do we really mean it? How often do we think of another’s suffering and beg God to end it because we shudder to see anyone hurt that way?
So often in his ministry, before Jesus healed someone, performed a miracle or validated someone’s pain, scripture says He was moved with compassion. That experience with my client was the first time in a long while where I felt my heart so deeply pricked. Her pain moved me. It urged me to help, to serve, to heal, to do something, anything. In my helplessness, I realized the only thing I could do was probably the most important thing that can ever be done – pray.
We often underestimate the vulnerability true prayer requires. It demands that we come face to face with our frailty and bear our deepest hopes and despair before our God. It requires that we shed light on our wounds, persist in asking despite disillusionment, and relinquish our sense of control. Prayer is the perfect illustration of the paradox of God’s strength being perfected in our weakness.
The scriptures note that often, early in the morning, Jesus would rise, and go off by himself to pray. I have no doubt that He was praying for all of the people He would encounter. Even now, He is making intercession for us to the Father. I am learning to appreciate the value of praying for those around us: speaking of someone in our prayers; counting their needs among our deepest desires, and placing them before our Father in earnest. Lifting up someone else in prayer is a service and a treasure.