Feature

Don’t Just Pray

Become an answer to prayer for the hurting, harried and discouraged

By Anonymous

I rarely talk about my daughter Sara*. It’s not that I’m ashamed of her, but I’m not sure other people are interested in knowing the truth about raising a handicapped child. There were times of joy and triumph, but also plenty of difficulties and life-altering decisions we had to make to raise a less than “normal” child.

Looking back over the past 20 years, I’d say that Sara has altered the path of our lives more than any other person, event, joy, or tragedy. My daughter cannot read or write, ride a bike, or play a sport. Sara influenced with whom my wife and I could spend time; when we could (or could not) shop at a store or take a vacation; who we could invite over for lunch; and what activities we could do with our other kids.

We often couldn’t go to church as a family because one of us needed to stay home and attend to our daughter. Our energy levels rose and fell according to what happened that week with Sara. There were a few times over the years when I doubted my sanity and ability to keep the pace necessary to raise a handicapped child. Many people told us “we are praying for you and/or her,” but very few became the answer to their own prayers.

My wife and I were always actively involved in church—teaching Sunday school and small groups—and were fairly visible as church members. But we received very few offers to help even though hundreds of people knew about our struggle raising Sara.

I suppose we could have made a bigger deal of it, but we were tired, stressed, and harried for many years. We couldn’t muster the energy to ask others to sacrifice their time to take on the not-so-easy task of caring for Sara, even for a few hours. But it would have been meaningful beyond words to have our church gather around us and demonstrate the love of Christ in this tangible way.

At one time, we took Sara to the front of the church to have the elders pray for “healing” as we desperately needed God to intervene. She was kicking and screaming, but I held her tightly in my arms as the elders anointed her with oil and prayed.

It took many years to see God answer those prayers. She is still severely handicapped, but became more manageable as she entered her teenage years. What an impact it would have made on us (and her) had one of these elders stepped forward and offered to support us, not just pray for us. I’m not diminishing the importance of prayer, but the Holy Spirit releases amazing power when we become the blessing of God to those we pray for.

I’m now on the pastoral staff at an evangelical church. The team routinely discusses the people and families in our church, especially those who are ill or in a difficult situation. We talk about those struggling with a wayward child, who are sick, or who recently had a baby. We try our best to be sure someone at our church is in contact with them to bring them food or simply encourage them.

I’ve often wondered if the pastors of our former church ever discussed Sara and the tough time we were having as a family 15 years ago. Looking back, I’ve concluded they must have never given us a thought, as there was never any concerted effort to help us in any way.

As a church, we sometimes fear asking the question, “How can we help you or your family?” We avoid inquiring because we fear they will tell us the truth. It is difficult to minister to someone who is undesirable and cannot express appreciation for our efforts.

Jesus loved and served those He met while walking the earth. He didn’t just organize Bible studies, small groups, Sunday school, or worship services. He met the people and loved them exactly at the point of life when they needed God’s touch. Jesus approached, loved, and respected the hated tax collectors, prostitutes, handicapped, and even children. He stepped out of what we consider our comfort zone to give an example to follow.

It is inconvenient to serve the handicapped, poor, and disenfranchised, but they need us and should never be put in a situation where they or their family must ask for help, especially when their plight is painfully obvious.

Consider the following for you or your church:

  • Ask your pastoral staff if they meet regularly to discuss the needs or concerns of individuals and families in your church. Is there a system in place to provide support for those in physical or emotional need? Taking food to someone is significant, but what about meeting a longer-term need?
  • Can you identify right now in your church body a family or individual you have ignored? By ignored, I mean someone who is in the midst of a difficult and taxing situation and you’ve not taken the initiative to help. If you have someone who’s handicapped, ill, financially strapped and you’ve not offered assistance, then yes, you have ignored them. Bite the bullet, and find a way to ask them how the church can help.

You or your church could be the answer to their prayers by providing them with help and support or even the vessel to assist them in finding the social services to give them aid. But be Christ. Be the Church.

I’m writing this article anonymously because several hundred people might feel badly or offended should they realize I may be talking about them. My motivation is to encourage you to consider involving yourself and your church in the lives of people in a tough spot in life, whether they ask for assistance or not. What a difference we could make in our world if we took the initiative to minister. We need to become proactive and less reactive to the hurting, harried, and discouraged.

*Name Changed

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1 response to Don’t Just Pray

  1. As a father of a special-needs daughter myself, I resonated deeply with the “Don’t Just Pray” article. We benefited from dear friends such as Gary Benedict, Dennis Whalen and many others who continue to pray and support us. But I know there are many who are lonely and facing far more difficult challenges than we ever faced – and I pray that God will use Alliance people to be the hands & feet of Jesus to them. Lord, display your power in our weakness!

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