How to Pray with Compassion
When Prayer is Your Only Option – Part 3
If praying for others is something that you regularly do you might find yourself making a routine of it. I know I’m starting in a negative direction and the reason for this is because it’s normal. Praying for others requires an action that most of us don’t readily think of doing because it’s an uncommon action. Allow me to take you back to the two stories I’ve been sharing over the last couple episodes.
I was arriving at the hospital to visit Mrs. R. who was a stroke victim with little to no movement in one side of her body. As I prepared to enter, I had no idea of what to say. Have you ever been there? At a loss for words. I greeted her husband who met me at the door. Then I made my way to Mrs. R’s bedside. What a sight? I greeted her as well. We all had small talk and to be honest, it was awkward because there was nothing I could do to change their situation. In other words, there was nothing possible that could be done, humanly speaking. No words said to them at that time could express what I felt and may have been insensitive to how they were feeling. I’d prayed like everyone else, a thirty-thousand-foot prayer. Lord, heal Mrs. R.
Let me stop here for just a second. Remember this was about twenty plus years ago. Listen to the words I used. “Lord, heal Mrs. R.” Sometimes we act as if God works for us with the words we use, as if we get to command Him. That’s often one of the mistakes we tend to make when we pray. We forget who needs who and who commands who.
Now back to a more recent account of our friend who experienced a stroke. He had his wife contact my wife and asked for me to come visit him. Here’s where it gets interesting. Here I go again. What will I say and what will I pray? This time, twenty plus years later I had some better insight. Instead of blindly going to visit. I took a thirty-thousand-foot request and brought it down to ground level. I stopped praying for a miracle and started praying for what I needed.
You must sometimes pray for what to pray for.
Keep this in mind or rather give this some thought. There are very few occurrences of miracles happening as a result of prayer. Most of the miracles in the Bible were a result of uncommon action and faith at the command from God. That’s a lesson for later. At this moment, I decided to ask God to give me the prayer I needed to pray with my friend. Then I asked Him for the words that I needed to use to encourage him and his wife. Instead of not knowing what to say and having that awkward visitation I once had, I decided to do something to change that. I prayed at ground level which means I got specific to where we were in the thirty-thousand-foot situation. I needed to pray for what God wanted me to say and I needed to say the words that He wanted me to say.
I mentioned at the start of this that praying for others requires an uncommon action which I need to give to you. That action is to pray with “compassion” which unfortunately is something that we don’t do naturally. We think we have compassion but we more often have empathy for others. There’s a difference. Empathy is an ability to identify with another’s feelings, thoughts, and attitude. Compassion goes further.
“And Jesus, being moved with compassion, touched their eyes; and straightway they received their sight, and followed him.
You must step into the shoes of others when praying for others.
Notice that Jesus was moved with compassion and it didn’t stop there. Each time Jesus had compassion, He responded with action. In this case, He touched their eyes and He gave the two blind men their sight. Having compassion moves you beyond empathy to action.
“Compassion is stepping into another’s shoes.” – Mayo Sowell
Compassion is simply your attempt to put yourself in the shoes of another. Get a feeling for the situation and ask yourself how would you pray if this happened to you? A major key to prayer is having compassion. It’s this compassion that will lead you to take a prayer from thirty-thousand-feet to an act of prayer that’s down on the ground.
When we have the compassion to pray for others, we stop praying for them but praying as them.
I want to make this practical so that you might get an understanding of what I mean by praying with compassion. I want to give you a few example questions you might ask yourself in order to help place the shoes of another on your foot. Step into their shoes. Get a feeling for the situation. If you were praying for the people in my examples what would you pray? Here are some questions to help you become a compassionate pray-er.
- How would you pray for this situation?
This question helps one internalize what the problem really is.
- What attention would you give it?
This question says don’t just give this a little effort or little attention. The Bible gives an illustration of a woman who wore out the judge with her plea to receive justice and he granted it. Is this a situation worth you wearing out God over? Is your loved one’s recovery worth you pleading to The Judge until He hears you?
- What if this were your mother, who’d had a stroke? Your wife? Your daughter? Your son? Your husband?
Find a way to place yourself in the situation; that’s how we pray with compassion. If this was someone you were deeply concerned about, you probably would never stop praying and if your prayer didn’t work you’d seek help in learning how to pray to get some results.
- What if this were you laying in the bed after having a stroke?
What would you want others to pray for over you? What would you pray for? How would you respond to God? If you think blaming God for a stroke is the answer to removing a stroke, you’re not just common, you might be foolish as well [to the left]. We’re talking about praying prayers with compassion.
What does it take for you to place yourself in the shoes of the person you’re praying for? You don’t want to pray until you’ve taken the step of compassion. It’s compassion that moved Jesus to respond with a miracle. What if you prayed with so much compassion that Jesus saw it? He’d move and then a miracle would show up. Stay with me, I know exactly what happens when you are daring enough to pray with compassion. We will continue with more of these stories next week.
Question: when was the last time you had compassion for another?