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Handling Significant and Shocking Prayer Requests

Wed, 02/26/2014 - 11:55am -- Rob
There are times when a friend, family member, or sometimes even a stranger, presents a prayer need or concern that is shocking or dismaying in the moment.  It might revolve around a great injustice, a sudden terminal or difficult health diagnosis, traffic accident, loss of something or someone significant, or another matter altogether.

For many of us, the first thing we often pray is, "Lord, heal this person or fix this matter!"  Others pray, "Lord, be with this/that person."  It's not wrong to pray like this, but have you considered that there are times when God may desire you to pray a little differently than how you pray out of your natural mind or emotions?

Knee-jerk response prayers can emanate from our emotions responding to the shock, surprise, or feeling of being overwhelmed that can come from learning about a serious or life-changing experience or event. 

But one thing we can forget to pray is, "Lord, please help quiet my heart so that I can accurately hear from You."  Then after He does, ask, "How would You have me pray in this moment, for this person/people, or situation?"  It can make a significant difference in both how you pray, and how you see God answer your prayer(s)!

Knee-Jerk, Stop-Gap, Reactionary Prayers

Knee-jerk, or stop-gap reactionary prayers may serve to help us immediately offer something in the form of prayer while we're attempting to figure out what happened or is happening.  They're also sometimes offered as a quick prayer of comfort or encouragement for the person who's shared the shocking request or is personally requesting prayer.

Many Christians (including me) have offered such prayers, sometimes with an expectation that God will respond in one particular way or another, only to later be disappointed when the condition worsens, the person prayed for passes away, or God doesn't answer in the way we've specifically requested or hoped.  Sometimes the disappointment wounds the Christian's faith in God or makes them question if they can effectively pray again if faced with a similar situation.

The Emotion Factor

 God has given all of us emotions.  Happiness, sadness, anger, amazement, wonder, awe, frustration, tiredness, and many more.  Emotions are a gift from God to enhance and embellish our lives.  Without them, our lives, our interactions with God and each other would be very flat, dull, and expressionless.  We can, and should, thank and praise God for giving us emotions- they're a gift He's given us out of His perfect wisdom, love, and affection!

What's Driving You?

 While emotions enhance and embellish our interactions with God and each other, it's possible for emotions to become the driver of our responses, reactions, and even how we pray. 

For example, if the emotion of anger is allowed to become one's driver (no longer kept under personal control or more importantly, yielded completely under control of the Holy Spirit), rage and out-of-control behavior can likely result, bringing physical and/or emotional wounds to self or others around.  A person emotionally driven by anger won't likely pray, or if they do, their prayer will be anger-driven and likely judgmental and condemning toward whatever person or matter they're angry toward.  God sees, hears, and knows the anger-filled person's heart, and hears the person's prayer; but He'll answer that person and their prayer out of His divine wisdom (knowing all of the past, present, and future- all seen and known by Him in that moment).

Different emotions, if driving instead of embellishing us, can steer us to pray and behave differently, depending on the emotion.


When we begin by asking God to help us pray beyond our emotions, we're not asking Him to cancel or negate our emotions as we pray.  What we're asking Him to do is help us balance the emotion(s) that's dominating or attempting to dominate us as we pray and seek God to intervene somewhere.  It's a request to help us see clearly; see the matter, circumstance, or person we're about to pray for through His eyes and understanding.  It's a spiritual and emotional heart check.  If we take time to allow God to align our hearts, minds, and emotions with His, we'll hear more clearly from Him about how He'd have us pray.  When we pray as He instructs (He instructs us in alignment with His Word and Spirit), we can be confident He'll answer our prayer(s) in the ways He's instructed us to pray.  It's also possible He may grow, strengthen, and deepen our faith in Him as a result!  That's a double-blessing (answered prayer and personal growth together)!

What if You're Prayerfully Stuck?

When faced with a shocking or stunning prayer request, and you can't seem to come up with words to pray, yield to the Holy Spirit to give you words or ideas/impressions about how He'd have you pray.  Although He personally intercedes for us, He will also give us His impressions as a way of guiding us how to pray and respond in the moment.  God invites our prayerful involvement in every moment of every day- and He'll help instruct us how to pray (especially when we feel inadequate or unable to pray- if we press into Him).

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. – Romans 8:26-30