Powerful Way to Pray for Those in Ongoing Difficulty

Most of us know someone who deals daily with an ongoing serious difficulty of some sort. Maybe we know someone with a chronic illness or problem with pain or someone in a caregiving situation. We may know someone trapped in an abusive relationship or someone whose job places them in the midst of crisis situations every day.

Whatever the particulars, our friends or loved ones enduring such stress likely feel overwhelmed and beyond discouraged much of the time. If we’ve ever experienced such a season ourselves, we understand how a person can come to the end of his or her physical, mental, and/or emotional reserves and wonder how they can possibly go on.

As their friends and loved ones, we feel helpless to fix the problem, but one way we can always help is to pray. And one powerful way to pray is to pray through the Psalms for them—slowly but surely.

If you’re like me, you’ve prayed the Psalms for yourself at one time or another, but we can also perform this wonderful ministry for those who desperately need to be upheld by our prayers. And if we pray just a few verses or portion of a chapter for them each day, our prayers will be long-term, just like the trial they are enduring.

We can simply start at the beginning of Psalms and read and pray through the verses with our friends or loved ones in mind, personalizing our prayers by using their names and the specifics of whatever their ongoing difficulty. Not every psalm will be completely applicable to suffering or difficulty, but let’s pray those scriptures for them as well. After all, each scripture prayed for those who are hurting will help strengthen them in some way.

Here’s an example from Psalm 3:1-4 NIV.  I’ll list the verses first and then personalize them in prayer for a loved one (using a fictitious name.)

“Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
‘God will not deliver him.’

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Prayer: Oh Lord, how many are Katie’s health problems. How many conditions rise up against her! These health issues seem to taunt her, saying “God will not deliver you.” But you, O Lord, be a shield about Katie, be her glory, the One who lifts up her head. Help her to call out to you and see you answer from your holy mountain.”

Let’s pray the Psalms for our hurting friends. Let’s hold them up with the powerful Word of God.

*Has God brought someone you know to mind? I have been praying the Psalms for a loved one for a few months now and will continue as God leads.

*Flickr photo by shaunanyi, Creative Commons License

Fruit in the Land of Suffering

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“‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’” Genesis 41:52b

Some of the most well-known people in the Bible knew great suffering, and Joseph is among that group. By the time he was thirty years old, he had experienced great grief and trial more extreme than many of us might experience in a lifetime.

At age seventeen, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to live in Egypt, a foreign land. While serving his master, he was unjustly accused of a serious offense and thrown into prison. During his prison stay, Joseph helped one of Pharaoh’s officials and had reason to hope that this official might be able to secure his release. However, the official forgot him, and then Joseph had to endure another two years in prison.

Finally Joseph came to the attention of Pharaoh. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s God-given ability to interpret dreams that he put him in charge of all Egypt. By God’s power and blessing, Joseph went from being a slave in Egypt to being in a position of great power, second only in command to Pharaoh himself. God then went on to use Joseph to bless the entire nation of Egypt as well as the surrounding nations during a time of severe famine. Joseph remained humble, however, and gave all glory to God, saying, “‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’” (Genesis 41:52b)

Many lessons can be drawn from the life of Joseph, but today let’s focus on the fact that even during times of suffering, God can use us and bless our efforts.

I’ve seen this happen in my own life. For example, during periods when Don’s mother was extremely ill, I had very little time to give to my writing. I was in a land of suffering, so to speak—a place I hadn’t chosen for myself, a place where I was frustrated by my lack of time to get pieces written and submitted. God took the little in my life, though, and blessed it. He allowed some of the few pieces I did have submitted to be accepted for publication. Another example unfolded when I was grieving my mother’s unexpected death. Years of work came to fruition as I was offered agent representation. That’s right, God blessed me with fruit in the land of my suffering.

If any of us are currently in a land of suffering, let’s be encouraged—God can make us fruitful even now. Whether physical fruit we can see and touch or spiritual and emotional fruit in our lives or the lives of those we impact, God can and will use us and bless our efforts, however small they may be. Yes, friends, he’ll make us fruitful in the land of our suffering.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

*When has God used you or blessed your efforts in a time of suffering?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. Sign up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by CaptPiper, Creative Commons License

5 Ways to Make Valleys of Weeping into Places of Springs

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“As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs . . .” Psalm 84:6a

People have had to travel through tough times and places since the beginning of time. Ever since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, difficulty and suffering have touched our lives.

In the verse from Psalm 84 above, pilgrims on their way to observe the religious festivals in Jerusalem (see v. 5) passed through the Valley of Baca—a valley of suffering. My NIV text note tells me that “Baca” means either “weeping” or “balsam trees.” It goes on to say that balsam trees were common in arid valleys. So whether the meaning here is a place of weeping or an arid place, both paint pictures of difficulty and suffering. The pilgrims didn’t have it easy. They had to travel through tough places.

Today believers are still pilgrims traveling through tough places, through valleys of weeping or struggles. Each one of us is walking life’s road toward our heavenly home. Each one of us faces tough places along the journey. Places and times when grief, trials, or spiritually dry times overwhelm us. Like the pilgrims of old, we don’t have it easy.

But notice how the scripture tells us that these Old Testament pilgrims made their valleys of weeping into places of springs. If you’re like me, you’re wondering how in the world they did that. Again, an NIV text note gives further insight. It says that the pilgrims’ expectations of joy transformed the difficult ways into places of refreshment. The promise of coming joy helped see them through.

So how can we transform our valleys of suffering into places of springs? Here are five ways that might help us:

1. Keep our eyes on the Lord and turn to him for solace. Even during our toughest times, he can supernaturally give us comfort, strength, refreshment, and even joy when we look to and depend on him.

2. Like the Old Testament pilgrims, expect and look forward to future joy. Instead of focusing only on the grief or difficulties we are currently dealing with, let’s keep an eye on future days when joy will be our portion again.

3. Find something every day to be thankful for. Expressing gratitude for something—for anything positive we see in the midst of our struggles—can lighten the moment, lift our spirits, or give us a fresh perspective.

4. Instead of isolating ourselves, stay involved with others and allow them to provide the comforting touch or encouraging word we need. Remember, God uses people to apply balm to our hurting hearts.

5. Read from the Bible every day—even if it’s just a few verses. God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It can provide refreshment and comfort and wisdom and everything else we need on any given day. It has been a lifeline for me nearly all my life.

As we apply these strategies—and others you may be thinking of—I can almost guarantee that God will bless us with moments of refreshment in the tough places of our lives.

God wants to show us his love and he will honor the efforts we make as we look to him. We may not have it easy all the time, but we do have a God who walks with us and is able to transform our valleys of weeping into places of springs. Let’s keep our eyes on him.

“He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;” Psalm 107:35

*Which of these strategies have made a difference in your life during tough times? What else could you add to the list?

*My photo