Practice Healing Prayer: Day 30 of the Pray-May Challenge

Do you know anyone who is suffering from physical illness? Yes, you probably do. In spite of our many advances medically, we are surrounded by people who experience chronic and acute pain, as well as various serious health conditions. Many of our family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow students are living with pain, often unvoiced and unknown. And all needing to experience Jesus’ love.

Today, I challenge you to pray for their healing.

Praying for physical healing in the name of Jesus has enormous biblical precedent. Jesus spent much of his ministry healing the sick, and he empowered his followers to do the same. The early church practiced regular healing prayer, and Jesus continued to heal people by the Holy Spirit, witnessing to his ongoing resurrection power through his body, the church.  Paul understood that there are those within the body who have spiritual gifts of healing, but also that praying for the healing of others was just part of the normal, Christian life.

In the book of James, we are encouraged to pray for the sick as a community, calling on elders to anoint with oil and pray for healing. By no means does this restrict prayers for healing only to elders! Rather, we are to practice faithful prayer, as a community, on behalf of those among us who are suffering.

As you pray for those in need, here’s some practical advice to keep in mind:
  • Before you pray for the person, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you so that you can minister to them with the Spirit’s power and grace.
  • After listening to how the person is doing, and hearing them share about their physical (or emotional, mental, spiritual, etc) struggles, ask that person if you can pray for them right now. If they are unwilling, don’t press it. For many people, they’ve never been asked this before, and it may seem awkward to them. If they seem uncomfortable, ask if it would be alright for you to pray for them later. Also: if you’re in a public space, be sensitive to how they may be feeling exposed.
  • If you do pray, don’t be weird about it. Don’t shout or speak strangely or get all amped up. Be at peace, and speak as you normally speak. You don’t need to close your eyes–in fact, there’s good reason not to, as you are able to observe how the person is doing as you pray.
  • Simply ask Jesus to heal them. You don’t need to be flowery or verbose: just speak the truth of Jesus’ love for them and ask that he would heal them.
  • If they are willing, ask if you can place your hand on their shoulder. Be sensitive to those who may not feel comfortable with being touched. Always respect boundaries and always be appropriate. (I find that there are those who like to clasp hands, which is great.) There seems to be a significant connection between physical touch and physical healing–not every time, but many times that Jesus healed others, he touched them.
  • Remember that asking Jesus to heal someone is not about you–you are simply obeying Jesus by praying, and letting Jesus work. Sometimes we get worried about ourselves–how we look, what others will think, what if Jesus doesn’t heal, etc. Healing is Jesus’ job; ours is to pray.
  • Remember that people feel loved when you pray for their healing, regardless of how God chooses to answer. The Holy Spirit ministers his love to others when we care enough to pray, and that works a deep healing in the life of someone who is feeling pain or suffering alone.
  • In that vein, make sure to remind people of Jesus’ love for them, even quoting a simple Scripture in which to anchor your reminder (such as John 3:16 or Romans 8:38-39). Pray for the Holy Spirit to pour the Father’s love into their hearts. 
  • Follow up with this person later, perhaps by sending them a message or asking them about how they are doing the next week. Show that you care for them in practical ways.
  • And continue to pray for them! Be faithful in remembering them before Jesus.
Praying for someone’s healing is a profound way of showing them God’s love.

Praying for someone’s healing can feel intimidating or foreign, but it shouldn’t be. Laying hands on someone’s shoulder and asking Jesus to touch them should be as normal as anything we do.  And praying for healing is a profound way of showing God’s concern and interest in others.

I hope and pray you will take courage today, and reach out to pray for someone else. And as you do, may the Spirit fill you, gifting you with his power and presence. And through your care and obedience, may others experience the healing power of Jesus, touching them, mending them, helping them and restoring them, in his name. Amen.

Try Hourly Prayer: Day 28 of the Pray-May Challenge

Ask someone when they pray, and you are often met with one of two responses: either they pray at a set time or times, like the morning, or at meals, or they pray all throughout their day, whenever they remember or are inspired to do so. Today’s challenge is a mix of both.

Day 28 of the Pray-May Challenge

Here’s what I encourage you to do: set aside 5 minutes every waking hour of today to pray. Only five minutes, consistently kept over the course of the day, adds up to well over an hour.

5 minutes x 15 hours = over an hour of intentional conversation with God in one day.

Why would we do that? Praying at set times has a long history within the Christian church, though the times are usually a little more spread out (and lasted a bit longer). Our brothers and sisters understood the value of a regular prayer rhythm, and we can follow their example. By praying at prearranged times, you become more conscious of the other 55 minutes, and your day becomes marked by conversation with God. What’s more, the act of stopping and talking to God, for a brief five minutes, will infuse your day with greater awareness of the Spirit’s presence and more openness to his promptings.

So how do we do this?

  1. Decide when you will pray, and set up an hourly alert system. Use your phone, set an alarm, or post a reminder of some sort that will interrupt you, if need be, to call you to prayer.
  2. Begin your day with a short prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help you in this day of intentional prayer.
  3. As you pray throughout the day, you may want to follow a similar form each time, or mix it up. You could pray using one of Paul’s prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, Mary’s prayer, or one of our many prayer challenges posted throughout May. Or you can simply talk to the Lord about the hour that’s passed, about your own heart and mind, about what you are thinking and feeling.
  4. One thing I do urge, however: praise God each time you stop to pray. Make praise central to your expression, whatever else you then go on to talk about with God. Our Father is worthy of our praise, any time, anywhere. I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1-2 NIV)
  5. At the end of your day, I encourage you to take a few moments and reflect on how these intentional prayer times, interspersed as they where, affected you. What did you notice about your prayer times? How did the rest of your day go? What surprised you? What was difficult? What would you do differently? Will you do it again? 
The more intentionally we listen to the Spirit, the more clearly we’ll hear him speak.

I’d love to hear how this impacted you, as well as ways it was a struggle. Post in the comments below.

My prayer for you today: Holy Spirit, each moment is a gift from you. Would you mark this day by an awareness of your presence with us? And each hour, as we stop to speak and to listen to you, may we receive all that you have for us. And may your name be praised, in us and through us. We offer this day to you, knowing that it is your gift to us. Amen. 


Interview Someone About Prayer: Day 22 of the Pray-May Challenge

On day 22 of our Pray-May Challenge, I want to change things up. Rather than asking you to pray a certain way or to focus on a particular subject, I want you to interview someone else about prayer.

We can learn so much from others, and yet prayer usually remains hidden from sight. As a result, we don’t even talk about it with each other, in spite of how helpful that would be for us.

So here’s the challenge: Identify a praying follower of Jesus, interview them, and then ask them to pray for you.

Learning from one another is one of the best ways to expand our practice of prayer.

A little advice on how to go about this: After identifying who to interview, explain your interest in growing your prayer life, perhaps mentioning this month-long challenge you’ve been trying (if that’s true), and ask them if they’d be willing to answer a few questions about prayer.

Here is a list of suggested interview questions. Feel free to add, subtract or edit these questions according to your own personal interests. Make sure to jot notes as the person is speaking, after asking permission to do so. Tell them you want to be able to remember what they have shared so you can reflect on them later.

Prayer Interview Questions:
  1. Can you tell me a little about your prayer life?
  2. Why is prayer important to you?
  3. What role does Scripture play in your conversations with God?
  4. Can you describe some of the particulars of how you pray (position, place, time, how long, methods, etc)? (Explain that you are trying to get a sense of practical ways you can expand your practice of prayer.)
  5. Who has been most influential to your prayer life? (Who taught you to pray or modeled prayer for you?)
  6. Can you share a story of a time when God answered your prayers?
  7. Likewise, can you tell me about a time when your prayers were not answered in the way you had hoped they would be?
  8. What has been the most difficult aspect of prayer for you?
  9. Why do you love praying?
  10. Can you give me your best advice for growing in conversation with God?

When you are done your interview, ask them if they would be willing to pray for you. Share with them an aspect of prayer that you are struggling with or trying to grow in, and ask them to pray for your relationship with God.

And as you finish, share one particular thing that really encouraged you, and thank them for their kindness and candor. 

A couple practical things: 

  • Even though we’ve been posting daily challenges, this may take you a few days to complete, with schedules and such. No problem–just try to do it this week.
  • This interview would be best if conducted in person, though it could be done through Skype, FaceTime, the phone, or even through email (though I’d really try to do it live and face-to-face, if at all possible).
Taking notes will help you reflect on what you’ve heard later.

After you have conducted this interview, I highly recommend that you spend a little time reflecting on what they shared with you.

  • What was the most encouraging thing they said?
  • What was the most challenging for you?
  • What did you learn?
  • What surprised you?
  • How has this grown your appreciation for prayer?
I would love to hear about what you learned. Do share in the comments below, even if you have to come back to this post a few days from now.

My prayer for you today, and as you conduct a prayer interview: Holy Spirit, guide us to praying children of yours, from whom we can learn more about following you. Open up this conversation, and enable us to speak and to listen, for the benefit and growth of each other in you. And may we learn together more of what it means to be in meaningful, life-giving conversation with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Are you growing through these prayer challenges? Please share them with a friend.
Just discovered the Pray-May Challenge? Scroll back through May and try a few of our daily challenges.
New to prayer? Try out these three posts to get started.
  1. Here’s how Jesus taught his newbies to pray. 
  2. These classic prayers from the Apostle Paul will give you great guidance. 
  3. And here’s a simple prayer you can take with you throughout the day. 


Day 8 of the Pray-May Challenge: Pray by name for everyone you can

Welcome to Day 8 of our month-long prayer challenge! I’m excited to introduce you to our prayer practice today, as I’ve found it very engaging and helpful to me.

Day 8: Pray By Name For Everyone You Can

We often pray for people as they come to our minds, or for a set of people on a regular basis–family and friends, people with needs, anticipating an upcoming event or inspired by particular situations.

Today, we will pray for everyone we can think of, within a certain amount of time, bringing each one before the Father and committing them to his care. And we’ll do that by making a long list of names.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Get a notebook or a few sheets of paper and a good pen. If you have a journal or prayer log, you might want to use that.
  2. At the top of the sheet or page, write a brief prayer for everyone you will be naming in prayer. It could be “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all” who are on this list. (2 Corinthians 13:14). Or you might pray, “Jesus, may each person I name feel your love and experience your grace today.”
  3. And then, begin writing the names of the people in your life, beginning those close and obvious, and then moving outward. (I do find that hand-writing is best, as it is slow enough I can draw each person’s face into my mind as I pray for them. But if you need to type this list, that’s great, too.)
  4. At first, names will come fairly easy. You will name your family, your friends, and you will cover ground quickly. Then, after a number of names, you will pause and begin thinking of others, further out. You’ll recall their kids, or a person you met just the other day. You’ll remember a barista, a clerk, a student or a neighbour. And the list will grow. Push yourself to keep writing names steadily and prayerfully.
  5. Some of you might struggle to remember their names, but you can still recall the people. That’s okay–the Lord knows who they are. I encourage you, if you think of a person you met the other day but can’t remember their names, describe them briefly (red coat), or just say “that woman I met at the grocery store on Wednesday” and then move on.
  6. For particular name or groups of names, things may come to your mind. You may know more of what you can pray for–do so briefly. The Holy Spirit may even insert new thoughts or impressions to pray for others. Go with that. For most, you’ll just be writing their names, and speaking a general blessing over them.  But as you do, you are offering each to the Lord, and asking for his love and grace and freedom and power to meet and transform each one. That’s a powerful exercise.
  7. You can take as long as you like on this exercise, or, if time is a concern, set a timer for 10-15 minutes and just write as steadily as you can during that time. Do what works for you.
  8. When you are done your list (which could be hundreds of names long), offer a closing prayer for them. Pray from your heart, asking for the Holy Spirit to minister to them today. How amazing it is to know that he can do just that, for each and every person you’ve named.

That’s the prayer challenge for today! A simple practice and yet forming a prayerful exercise of memory and relationship. I found as I did it that I remembered people I’d not thought about for a long time, and was even able to send a few messages of encouragement as a result.

Jesus knows intimately each and every one. Let’s pray today for his guiding and graceful presence in the lives of all we know.

And for you, dear reader and faithful pray-er, I ask, “Lord Jesus, guide the thoughts and hands of each one today. As we pray for those we know, be them close or only in brief acquaintance, may we grow in our conviction of your loving personal care for each one, and our part in interceding in prayer for them. Thank you for your grace. Amen.”

Our Pray-May Challenge so far:

Day 7 of the Pray-May Challenge: Praying for Preachers

Welcome to Sunday, day 7 of our Pray-May Challenge.

What a day. All over the world, spanning every time zone, climate and culture, Christians are gathering to worship our Triune God. Just think about that. Amazing. Consider all the languages declaring “the wonderful things which God has done.” (Acts 2:11) Let your mind see the various faces meeting in myriad places, streaming from their scattered weeks to worship as one body in the Spirit and in truth.

And in the context of this wonderful worship, God’s people are receiving God’s Word as it is spoken or sung in some way. And God’s Word brings transformation, for as we read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (NLT)

And today, in almost every context, there will be someone in the gathered body of Christ–a brother or a sister, usually of their own fellowship–who will stand up and share God’s word for his people.

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'” (Romans 10:15 NIV) PC: Pixabay Free Images

They will read, share, preach, exhort, challenge, shout and whisper and weep and compel.

Some will do it well. Others will fumble around. There will be men in suits with PhD’s, trained in the best of our traditions.  There will be women in sandals who have struggled to learn to read. There will be farmers in hats, with dirt under their nails, opening the pages of God’s word and offering food for the hungry. And there will be pastors or priests or ministers or elders, some well-paid, some poorly paid, and some not paid at all, but each offering up God’s Word for the profit of all.

Let’s pray for those preachers today.

For the first six days of our Pray-May Challenge, we’ve focused most of our attention on varying practices of prayer, from praying Paul’s prayers, Jesus’ prayer, and prayers of saints such as Patrick and Mary. Today, I invite you to pray for those who will, in some way and place, be opening up God’s Word to his people.

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'” (Romans 10:15 NIV) PC: Pixabay Free Images

Preaching God’s Word is an awesome responsibility. James 3:1 offers a warning that “not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (NLT) Yikes. As a pastor who regularly preaches and teaching, I feel myself gulping a little when I read this warning.

Here’s some of the ways we can pray for preachers today.
  1. Pray God’s will for them. I’d suggest starting with one of Paul’s prayers–pray that “from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you [them] with inner strength through his Spirit.” Apply Day 2 to preachers. 
  2. Pray for the Spirit to speak through them his precise and needed word for the communities they serve. The church is often struggling, and when we gather, we desperately need to hear God’s voice among us. Be it prophetic, pastoral, or personal, give your servants a word in season today, Lord.
  3. Pray for their families, pray for their daily needs, and pray for their physical, emotional and relational well-being. Pray for a strengthening of their calling, because we need them active and strong for the body of Christ, not burning out or disqualifying themselves. This is needful and true for those who are in full-time vocational ministry, but it is even more important for those part-time or bi-vocational or full-time fishermen/full-time church elder, often pulled in so many directions and yet so committed to the work of God that they sacrifice daily to see his church grow.
  4. Pray for the church as we receive God’s Word from these preachers–may we be receptive and obedient to Jesus’ leadership in our lives and in our church. May we hear Jesus speaking to us through a Spirit-filled member of his body.
  5. And don’t forget pray for a particular preacher you know, especially your own–but even better, name all the preachers you can name from your current city or town or county and pray for them today. Pray for the ones you listen to via podcasts or watch online. Pray for their protection and their encouragement. Pray that they would not be lead into temptation but be delivered from evil. Pray for an increase in their effectiveness. Pray for their relationship with God. Pray that they will speak God’s truth, for God’s people, so that God’s church is equipped “to do every good work” the Spirit has for us to do.

As a pastor and a preacher, I thank you for your prayers. And I join with you today in praying for preachers, right here in my home town and out to the various cities and corners of God’s World. Together, we join our voices and pray for our brothers and sisters everywhere–may we receive your word today, through your servants, so that we may live lives worthy of your calling upon us. Amen. 

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'” (Romans 10:15 NIV) PC: Pixabay Free Images

Day 6 of the Pray-May Challenge: Practice Resting Prayer

Today is Saturday, the day our Western culture, rooted as deeply as it is in the Judeo-Christian story, still views as a day of rest and re-creation. 

In our origin story, God works hard for six days, creating the extravagantly good world in which we live. And on the seventh day, after his work of creating was done, God rested.

His resting modeled a way of being for his people, as they received this origin story at the foot of Mt. Sinai along with his will for their lives as a people. And embedded within his will–set, in fact, in the 10 commandments themselves–Yahweh institutes regular rest for his people. No longer slaves, they were to imitate his rhythm of good work and holy rest in their own lives.

Resting is good! Resting is holy and human and divine.

Resting prayer is God’s invitation to be with him, in the now, for the sake of our re-creation. PC: Pixabay Free Images

And so, here on day 6 of our Pray-May Challenge, I invite you to practice resting prayer.

Resting prayer is a prayer in quietness, where you intentionally position yourself to be open to God’s restoration in your life. It is not filled up with words or activity, nor is it demanding of God’s action or response.

Resting prayer is about being easy in God’s presence.  One of my sons asked me the other day: “Is ‘chillax’ an official word?”

My response? “Probably not, but it should be. We all know what it means!!” 

Resting prayer is chillaxing with God, which, ironically, super difficult for us to do. We are busy, frenetic, distracted people, with lots going on in our lives and inside our minds. Which means we need to chillax with God more than ever.

So here’s what I want us to do today, to practice resting prayer.

  1. Find a few moments to simply be–with no other agenda than being with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You could take a walk, lay down in the backyard, or even take a few moments in your bedroom. If you are driving today, pull over at a viewpoint and just sit for a few minutes. It can be long, but it doesn’t have to be. I do realize this is tough for some of us, but I’m confident you can find a few moments for rest.
  2. Start your time by stating why you are there:
    • “Father, I am here to be with you.”
    • “Jesus, let’s hang out for a bit.”
    • “Holy Spirit, I’m just going to sit here with you.” 
  3. Then open yourself up to God’s presence, but don’t feel any need to make anything happen. You don’t need to feel or hear or experience anything at all. Just be with God. In the quiet, in the rest. In the now.
  4. And rest. Just rest. #dontfeelpressure #itsokaytosleep #emmanuel
  5. After you’ve enjoyed your Creator’s presence, for however long or short, say thanks. “Thank you, Father, for always being with me. Thanks, Jesus, for spending time with me. Holy Spirit, I’m so grateful for your abiding presence.”
  6. And then go on with your day. It’s not that you now leave God’s presence–he is always with you–but now you go on with your day more aware of his continual availability to you and in you. And you engage your day having now rested in the presence of your resting God.

Everything I’ve just said can be summarized very simply: Go be with the God of rest today, and receive his rest for you. Jesus invites us to come to him, “all who labor and are heavy laden” and he promises to give us rest. (I’m guessing that applies to you.) “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus said, “and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) You can’t beat that for a divine invitation to resting prayer. Receive it as your big invite for today. 

And if you end up falling asleep on your hammock, think of how happy God is that you were sleeping in his presence! If your mind drifts away for a bit, share that distraction with our ever-present Father, guilt-free. Should you find yourself yanked away by demanding children, invite God into that mess–laugh at the reality of interrupted rest and know that God goes with you, back into the day, back into the work, back into your calling to be his, wherever you are.

My prayer for you today is this: May this day be a day of rest for you, in the presence of our Lover, Friend and Re-Creator. 


Day 5 of the Pray-May Challenge: Pray Mary’s Prayer of Readiness

Welcome to Day 5 of our Pray-May Challenge! Today we follow the example of the mother of Jesus, who prayed, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

There is just something about this simple prayer of Mary which draws me in. Here she is, a young, soon-to-be-married Jewish girl, and she receives the most amazing and upsetting news possible.

A pregnant virgin. In a culture where shame will follow her all the days of her life, regardless of how much she might tell the story of her Spirit-derived conception.

ANGELICO, Fra Annunciation, (1437-46) PC: Wikipedia
Amazing news, yes–that God would choose her and that she would be the one to receive the world’s Messiah-King and the very Son of God. But deeply upsetting to every safe and simple plan her or Joseph had designed for themselves.

And yet, when the angel announces God’s plan through her pregnancy, her ready response is stunning: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38 NIV)

A prayer of readiness, a prayer of submission, a prayer of total trust.

A prayer rooted in who God is and who she is. A prayer of a person committed to what God wants to do in her and through her, even if it’s totally unexpected and terribly frightening.

I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.

That is our prayer for today. Here’s how I encourage you to pray it.

  1. If you don’t have it memorized already, write it down on a small card or a post-it note. Get it in front of your eyes and into your heart.
  2. Pray this prayer throughout your day today, as you are working, driving, gardening or cleaning up after lunch. Let it punctuate your day.
  3. And as you do, ask: What is the Word of God I long to see fulfilled in my life? Perhaps it is rooted in the prayers of Paul from day 2 or the Lord’s Prayer of day 3 or even St. Patrick’s Lorica of yesterday. Maybe it’s another promise that you’ve been holding on to, that you know is God’s will and desire for you.
  4. Also ask: What is an area in my life where I’ve been resisting or wrestling with God’s direction or desire? This prayer of Mary is an incredible prayer of submissive obedience, and we can move into God’s desire for us with this prayer on our lips.
  5. But the basic challenge for today is to simply pray: I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled. Pray it over and over again, letting it sink down deep into your mind and heart.

As you do, your own identity will deepen, as well as your trust in the One who calls you into his will and word. We are his servants, and he is activating his word in us, so that through us, his will can be done in the world.

Here’s my prayer for us today: Father, we are your servants. And today, as we pray the prayer of your servant Mary, may we embrace our identity as your dedicated servants. May we more fully trust that your Word–which never fails–will come to be fulfilled in our lives as we submit to you. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.