When I saw the news of Pastor Jarrid Wilson’s suicide, I gasped. I didn’t know him. But, when you’re scrolling through Instagram, it’s jarring to learn that a young, well-known pastor, an advocate for suicide prevention, a dad and a husband, ended his life. Death is shocking. Suicide is devastating.
So I gasped and prayed for his family.
Eva Love Sherbondy is seven and recently fell head-first out of a golf cart. Her traumatic brain injury entered my Instagram feed and made me hold my breath, as I watched from the phone in my hand, as her family grieved and fought to trust the Lord.
I wrote her name on my hand to remind myself to pray for her.
But these stories, and some painful events in my own life, exposed the current weakness of my own prayer life. Do I really believe that I’m talking to God? Or do I tell suffering people, “I’ll pray for you,” as an empty pleasantry to make us both feel better? Do my mutterings of the names of the Wilson family and the chicken scratch words on my hand count as intercession? Do I believe what I’m saying? Is God really listening? And what do I think He will do with the devastation?
Pray for Change Because God Can Change Things
“Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: ‘Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add fifteen years to your life.”” – Isaiah 38:4-5
If only we can believe, “I have heard your prayer.” If only we can hope for, “look I am going to add…”
I can pray for Juli Wilson and Eva because while I don’t know them, the Wilson family is my family in Christ and they need strength right now, and I have the ear of the God of all strength.
We are God’s kids, and He does hear us when we ask according to His will (1 John 5:14) and we can bring Him our burdens because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7), and sometimes He says things like, “I hear you. I see you. Here are some more years. Here is some impossible-with-man-but-possible-with-Me healing. Here is a taste of My power and comfort and love.” Sometimes He says that. Or sometimes, He just says, “I am with you” and reminds the people we are praying for that He is with them, too.
But God is always hearing and working in the circumstance He controls and/or in the people He loves, so when we are praying, the world is changing.
When I Couldn’t Pray For Myself
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” – James 5:16
As I’m encountering the painful stories of others and considering what it means to intercede for them, I’m remembering when others have prayed for me. When I was twenty-four, I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured and tried to kill me. I woke up to the reality that my baby had died and bags of other peoples’ blood were dripping into my arm, and I whispered to God, “I don’t know what to say to You right now.”
I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t even admit I was angry. I was weak and numb and I gave God the silent treatment.
But there was a family at my church that observed the state I was in. They brought me meals, they listened to me vent about how unhappy I was, and that was all I knew was going on. I didn’t find out until months later that while I was shunning God, they were interceding for me.
They prayed and even fasted for days on my behalf while I watched TV all day.
When I reflect back on what has kept me walking with the Lord, I know it was God working through the prayers of the Avilez family that kept my heart afloat in 2010.
And I want to be that for the Wilsons and the Sherbondys and others. We can be “powerful in effect” for one another.
Pray to a Big God Who Made Himself Small
“Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16
We can talk to Jesus when we’re weak. We can talk to Jesus for our friends and the people we follow on Instagram when they are weak. And when we talk to Jesus, remember, we talk to the One from whom and to whom and through whom are ALL THINGS (Romans 11:36). But we also pray to the One who, “When he had come as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
He knows. He knows how hard it is to be here. He knows what it is like to see friends hurting and dying. He knows what devastation feels like. And He wants us to know that He is with us.
He is watching as we are watching. He is hurting as we are hurting. He is interceding as we are interceding. And all the power is His. We should talk to Him more.