Intercessory Prayer and the Hidden Things

I may write some posts on how not to deal with those who are suffering. This could be the first of a few or just by itself. I must warn you that this is a rant.

When praying for those who are suffering, or anyone for that matter, there are often things they ask for prayer for, but there are also other things we may pray for that are the ‘hidden things’ that we pray but don’t necessarily mention. These things are ideally things that God has given you insight into or that you’ve just noticed about them. You pray for them but don’t necessarily tell them that you are, especially if they are weaknesses they may have, or you just want to let the Holy Spirit work and see what happens.

Then there are things where someone says, “I’m praying for you for your difficulty and also that you will…” This is no longer prayer. It’s a suggestion. You’re telling the person what you think they should be doing, or what would make you feel good so you’re “suggesting” that they do it also because of course it would make them feel better too. These usually aren’t spiritual things, so they may or may not be God’s will. And now you won’t know if the person does these things because you suggested them or because God is strengthening them to be able to do them, if they even want to.

As an example, you may say, “I’m praying that you’ll get out and get more sun (because vitamin D will heal you), that you’ll see your friend more and that you’ll play that sport you used to play.” Well, maybe they’re taking medication that makes them extremely sensitive to the sun (which is actually the case with me), maybe that friend isn’t a friend anymore or isn’t good for them to be in contact with. You may think they should be more social, but sometimes God wants a period of time where He just wants us for Himself. Who knows. They may not have the energy to play that sport anymore or they may not be able to play it well enough for it to be enjoyable any longer.

Often when people are suffering, people feel they have the right to tell them what they think they should be doing. All the while this person is probably doing other activities they enjoy that require less energy or that they’re better able to handle and they may be actually growing a lot more spiritually because of their suffering than the person giving them the “advice”. I don’t know if there is a name for this phenomenon, but it happens all the time. Ask anyone who suffers chronically.

If I may make a suggestion: pray for things they’ve asked for prayer for. If you receive insight from God or from your own senses, use it privately and carefully, not to judge but to lovingly intercede for them. (There is a great quote by Oswald Chambers on this that I can’t find.) Pray for things that are definitely God’s will. You will find them in the Bible. And realize that they aren’t you and you aren’t them and conventional “wisdom” isn’t always the way to go. They don’t enjoy suffering and are doing more than you think to get out of it or to cope. And at some point when your turn comes up, you may actually be asking them for advice on how to grow spiritually or cope with suffering.

The two things people need the most are listening and prayer.

I hope that wasn’t too curmudgeony and I hope it helps someone see things from a different perspective. And those who are suffering need to “make allowance for each others’ faults and forgive anyone who offends them. Remember, the Lord forgave you so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13) We need to use this as an opportunity to grow all the more.

7 Responses to “Intercessory Prayer and the Hidden Things”


  1. 1 Eric

    Hi Jeff – great insights and not too curmudgeony at all. I’m in a time of darkness now and can’t see much light, but what you said really rings true. Eric

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    Hi. I’m sorry to hear that Eric. I know it can be difficult to even comment on blogs in that condition and I really appreciate the feedback on this one. I pray God will comfort you.

    Jeff

  3. 3 Eric

    Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate it.

  4. 4 Aimee Byrd

    Jeff,
    This was really good advice for me. I’m sure that I have made “suggestions” that I thought were helpful. I would never want to come off in the way that you described in your post, so I am happy to re-examine well-meaning comments. This post will serve as a good lesson to me, on top of others that the good Lord is sanctifying me with.

    Thank you.

  5. 5 Scripture Zealot

    Thank you Aimee. I was hoping I wasn’t coming off too strong. I know people want to help, but it can get old, even though the people that I know personally for the most part are terrific, and even all of the regular commenters on this blog, when I talk about personal suffering type things.
    Jeff

  6. 6 Craig Bennett

    I believe that some of the prayers you mentioned border on ‘witchcraft’. And at times they can bind a person and not release them.

    For instance I heard of a female missionary who was content in her singleness. A time of great confusion came over her…shortly after someone from a church let her know they were praying that she would find a man and settle down…

    Her reply was how dare you pray a prayer like that when I am content in my singleness. She asked the Lord to release her from any soulish prayers and the confusion left her.

  7. 7 Scripture Zealot

    Great example of that prayer. And something I try to get across to people is God is doing His will and they don’t need to try to thwart it. Sometimes it’s God’s will that He let’s people suffer. And he’s working in my life more than if I hadn’t been. But people think that just can’t be right and we have to pray hard enough so that this won’t happen. After all, (lower) middle class, white, western people don’t suffer like that. I love that woman’s bold response (not that she was suffering, I’m just kind of going off on a tangent). I suppose we have to measure our response with the situation, which is hard for me.

    It’s a waste of time to pray prayers that might not be God’s will and does a disservice to those being prayed for.
    Jeff

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