SOURCE: adapted from Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch
Asking for Help Is Hard
Asking people for help makes calling out to the Lord seem easy by comparison. The Lord already knows we are weak and needy, but other people? That is a different story. They may not know, and we desperately want to appear competent before them. Even though spiritual neediness is one of the most attractive acts of a human being, we have our own views of strength, honor, and what is most becoming, and pleas for help are not on that list.
But it really should be simple.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25; also 1 Cor. 1:10–11; Eph. 6:19–20; Col. 4:3). Apparently, he was no longer embarrassed by his weakness and need. Paul was thoroughly schooled in rejection and humiliation. He was once a noted up-and-coming Pharisee, and then—he became nothing. He was nothing before his Hebrew kin, and he was of no reputation before many of the churches he founded. Having learned that Jesus made himself of no reputation before others, Paul was unconcerned about his own reputation. That is how he was able to ask for prayer.
If we desire to be perceived as competent and in control, we will not ask for prayer. If we know that humans, by nature, are spiritually needy, and God’s plan is that we turn both to him and to other people for help, we will ask for prayer.
How to Ask
Whether we have never asked anyone to pray for us or we do it every day, the goal is to grow both in how often we ask for prayer and how we ask for it.
How often? We want to ask more than we do now.
How to ask? We want to ask for prayer about both circumstances and matters of the heart that sit below the surface, for things seen and things unseen. We take the skills we have learned in personal prayer and ask others to pray with us.
First, we put our burdens into words. Second, we attach words of Scripture that capture both our real needs and God’s purposes and promises. That is, we pray for what we know our Father wants to give us.
Example 1: I’m So Behind
First, the burden: “I have been so tired. I feel like I am always a few steps behind on everything.”
Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I would rest in Jesus?” The Scripture that shapes this prayer is from Matthew 11:28–30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Example 2: My Daughter Is Sick
First, the burden: “This is so hard. Would you pray for healing for my daughter?”
Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you also pray for perseverance and that I would be able to fix my eyes on things that are not seen?” (Heb. 6:11 and 4:16–18).
Example 3: I’m Too Impatient
First, the burden: “I have been so impatient with my kids recently. I need help.”
Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I will know Jesus’s unlimited patience toward me so that I will pass that on to my children?” (1 Tim. 1:16). Or, “Would you pray that I will see my anger as my problem and not theirs? I want to see that anger is murder and the problem is that I demand something and am not getting what I demand” (James 4:1–10).
Example 4: I Need a Job
First, the burden: “Would you pray that I will find work?”
Second, we attach Scripture: “And would you pray that I will trust the Lord for manna each day rather than get swamped by my anxieties?” (Matt. 6:28–34).
And sometimes our request for prayer can be very simple and desperate: “I feel undone. Would you pray for me? I don’t feel that I can pray for myself, and I don’t even know what to pray.”
If you have prayed for someone, you know it is a privilege. Other people will feel the same way when you ask them to pray for you. Once we get the knack of asking, we can ask for help for some of our other burdens in life, such as looking for a job or cleaning up an apartment. We can even let people know our financial needs.
Recognize Help When It Comes
Once we’ve prayed and asked others to pray for us, all that’s left is to keep watch. We assume “that if we pray according to God’s promises, we will see him on the move. So we wait expectantly, and then we acknowledge his work when it comes.
Edward T. Welch (PhD, University of Utah) is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation.