The more than 1,500 people who attended the ERLC’s Caring Well conference earlier this month were no doubt eager to learn how to lovingly serve those who have been victims of sexual abuse. As the hustle of the conference settles and the noise dies, as we return to our business as usual days, survivors of abuse remain and must not be left in the conference dust. There are many things to do and things yet to be done. But one way for you and I to keep survivors in our minds and on our hearts is to pray. Not once. Not twice. But pray continually for these crimes that affect many men, women, and children in our pews.
Here are five ways you can pray as you seek to continue or begin the work of caring well.
1. Protection for Survivors
A survivor who comes forward opens herself up to potential shaming, accusations, and more. Pray that she would not be harmed by the words of others as she seeks help. Pray that the Lord would guard her heart and mind. Pray that the Lord would pour out mercy and grace, enabling her to remember who she is before Him.
2. An Environment of Grace
In order for survivors of sexual abuse to come forward, our churches must have what Ray Ortlund calls “gospel cultures.” The gospel of grace enables us to hear hard things without shock, extend love and care without judgment, and speak words that emulate those of Jesus. Our churches must be as safe as possible and where grace abounds safety is close beside it. This isn’t a cheap grace that allows perpetrators to go free. This isn’t a “grace” that doesn’t call the police. Don’t misunderstand. This is a grace that allows those who are victims to feel the freedom to come forward and not to fear. Pray that your church will have a gospel culture.
3. Wisdom for the Congregation
When people do come forward you and I will need to know what to do next. Pray for wisdom. It’s easy to put policies and procedures down on paper, which you must, but it’s in implementing where the rubber meets the road. Pray for wisdom for the friend of the unknown survivor who doesn’t realize she is about to receive information that must be handled with the greatest of wisdom and care.
4. Wisdom for the Pastor
Pastors are often on the front lines. They will need prayer for how to serve the members of their congregations, how to act justly and swiftly, and how to know their limits. They will also need all the same prayers as a general member of the church. A pastor’s counsel could be the beginning of healing and restoration. It could also be the words that crush and harm the survivor the most. Pray for the pastor to have wisdom with his words and actions.
5. A Genuine Love
Ultimately, you and I can do all the right things and even say all the right things, but if we have not love, all we do is worth nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Pray that our love for one another would be genuine. That our actions and words would be motivated out of a love of neighbor that looks to her needs above our own fears, desires, or concerns for self-preservation. Let every word that comes from our mouth and every action taken be covered in love—that should be our prayer.
There are a number of other prayers that we should bring before the Lord. Many of our groanings are too deep to even know what to say. But thankfully, we have the Spirit who intercedes for us (Rom 8:26-27). Caring well for the abused is too important for us to try to carry on our own. It’s too big for us not to pray. So whether it’s the five suggestions in this article or the ones on your heart and mind: Don’t forget. Don’t move on. Pray.