Friday, January 13, 2012

What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say

"Kathy, we just learned Larry has a tumor. They're checking for cancer but we're so scared. Please pray."

We often hear similar requests. For many years my reaction was, "Of course I will." And I really meant to. Sometimes I did. Other times I actually forgot to pray. So in essence I lied. Good intentions but I lied.

It all changed when I found myself in need of prayer. My friend saw the tears in my eyes, heard the quaver in my voice and responded, not with a promise to pray, but asked, "Can we pray right now?" As he prayed over me, the peace that flooded my spirit was powerful. This was no longer a conversation between two people.

From that day on, Doug and I often respond to requests for prayer by praying right then with the person. We ask and no one has yet to decline. When people hurt, they need help right THEN. We may not have answers but we know the One Who does. So taking a friend directly to the throne is a bold step in the right direction. I'm not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV! But I can be an ambulance to the Great Physician.

I called Miss Frances, who'd been in and out of the hospital, dealing with a lot of issues. After hearing her share recent struggles, I said, "Can I pray for you right now?" She said yes and after I prayed, her voice was calmer.

A dear relative burst into tears recently on the phone, just overwhelmed with life stuff. We prayed right then. Reminded of what she already knew, she said, "I know God's. . ." and she began to list His care for her, overriding her own frustrations.

A parent of a piano student came early one Tuesday to get her son. She cried as she spoke of her mother, a recent stroke victim. My own mother and I had walked that path. "Roxie, can I pray with you?" Her son played softly as we went to God together right there in the studio.

Doug's dear friend, Jerry, was recently in ICU, fighting for his life. We phoned him. "Can I pray with you now, Jerry?" Doug asked his friend.

 Rev. Jerry Padgett with his wife, Pauline--our dear friends
It happens at church or in Walmart, in public or in private, in person or on the phone. Part of my process was in seven things I discovered about prayer.

  • Short prayers are effective too! I harbored misconceptions that prayers need to be long or eloquent. Actually Jesus warns about lengthy prayer that's just for show. His model prayer takes less than 25 seconds. Try it. "Our Father. . ."
  • Praying is more important than promising. If I pray on the spot, I no longer lie to friends. In fact, they seem to be on my mind and prayer list later, more often after we pray together.
  • I should not be ashamed to pray in public. A brief prayer is still a conversation but bowed heads and closed eyes invite God into the need. This can be quiet and unobtrusive, not drawing attention to ourselves. I challenge you to go beyond restaurant blessings.
  • The impact on the person is immediate, powerful and worth it. If you dare try this, brace yourself for an emotional, appreciative reaction, "Thank you SO much." I know. I've stood in your shoes too.
  • When you don't know what to say, don't say anything. PRAY EVERYTHING! I just repeat the situation back to God and ask His help. It shifts the focus from a helpless person or circumstance to a caring, loving Father. Of course He already knows fully. Prayer is less about telling God our troubles than it is about reminding us to trust Him with them.
  • Peace is not an emotion. It's a Person. Go to Him. Quickly. Often after prayer, the stream of information changes from detailed problems to assurance it will work out somehow.
  • Prayer puts a period, not a comma, into the words. When we lift our eyes after praying, there's usually just a hug and a thank you. We took it to God together. We can walk away and leave it there. Some burdens are too heavy for our shoulders anyway!
Next time someone asks you to pray, pray. Right then, right there. It's not a preacher thing. It's a child of God to the Father thing. We are family. Run to Papa!

On my knees, on the hoof or on the phone. . . always praying,


  1. Thanks Kathy. Pray that I might cease the opportunity to pray right now when ask.

    WV friend of Haley Miles

  2. This is right on! Very practical. Thank you! More people need to know this.