Our congregation is a praying congregation and I am a blessed pastor to serve here. Payer is a craft and a learned skill. Part of our teaching focus this year, and one of our three key drivers, is “Developing skills for ministering” and one key skill is praying with and for hurting people. (Note: we have two other ‘drivers’; loving God’s word, and deepening our prayer life.) But how do you pray for hope when things seem hopeless? In times of hospice care, terminal illness, tragic accidents, catastrophic relationship breaks and other final and un-fixable situations, how do you pray with the hope of Jesus Christ in the face of hopelessness? Here are some things to think about and you are welcome to comment your thoughts below. The scriptural focus will be 1 Corinthians 15.
In Christ nothing is hopeless even if it cant be seen. This may be a hard sell to the wounded, especially if this person does not have a faith foundation. The caregiver needs to firm in this fact and know scriptures of comfort. It seldom a good care to preach them in a time of stress. Pick one and offer it as a comfort, a medicine, but not a magic spell. To an unchurched person it is probably better to paraphrase. God has your back, caregiver, and God has healing for the hopeless.
Look at death from a God’s eye view. “Where o death is your victory, where o death is your sting”. (1 Corinthians 15:54-56). Flesh and blood is not the point of life and living is eternal in Jesus Christ. Death is not the enemy but sin is-anything that separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus for you. Death is the human condition. From God’s perspective, death is merely a way to show us how precious life is and how crucial to make our lives matter by investing them in Faith. Tragedy is not a punishment! They are the product of a broken world.
Here are four things to remember. Four ways that this craft works out in the real world.
Ask permission to pray. If the answer is yes then you have an opportunity to open the door to the Holy Spirit in a situation that does not immediately point to hope. If the answer is no, then you have been given permission to pray without speaking and pray you must. This is God’s domain and not ours anyway. It is not our spoken words that heal but God’s movement within them. When you can’t put hope into words, pray to the God of all hope to make it known.
When you pray aloud, pray what you know and not what you do not know. How do you pray when a person is in agony without any treatment options left? No one wants them to die, yet the comfort of a faithful persons death is peace. One of our church members who was attending to a dear friend said, “When I don’t see the way to pray, I simply pray for mercy, and then take the opportunity to prayer for myself.
Hopelessness is often forced change in disguise. A lengthy process of dying will often bring faith to a whole family. A tragic accident can bring about major changes to people who would have never considered. and a situation from bad choices that has only bad solutions can bring a person to their knees and see God. The situation may be dire and unfair but the God led outcome can bring a victory that we cannot ask for or imagine. Caregivers can always pray for guidance for a person that is on a dark path even if they cannot know what the destination might be.
Never Give up and never give in to hopelessness. I believe in prayer for impossible things because that is where God intersects our lives. Even when the outcome is not what I have chosen, God has spoken. Who am I to put words in God’s mouth. Who am I to think that I have the big picture at hand. Pray like you mean it and know that God will meet you there. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” -1 Corinthians 15:58.