Problems Too Big
To Pray For
“for I know that through your prayers and the help of the
Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance …”
Sitting across from a family friend at my dinner table, I listened as tears caught in her throat. She told me her son had become estranged from his wife and children because of his alcoholism.
Helplessly, she asked, “What should we do?” The weight of her despair settled heavily on me — I’d been in her son’s shoes only seven years before, trapped in my own losing battle with alcoholism. Now I did my best to listen, affirm her feelings and offer comfort.
Then I gently suggested we pray.
She couldn’t hide her disappointment at that, desperate questions written all over her face: What about an action plan? A number to call? A book to read? Prayer seemed too simple for a circumstance that felt so uncontrollable, so uncomfortably not Christian.
When the Church doesn’t talk openly about the types of hardships we’re facing, especially “taboo” sins like addiction, alcoholism or abuse, it’s easy to forget we can talk openly to God about them. It’s even easier to forget the power of surrendering in prayer.
I know I do.
In our key verse today, we find an amazing discovery about prayer: “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19).
The Apostle Paul endured beatings, arrests and imprisonment for preaching the gospel — outwardly shameful circumstances, to be sure. Despite his imprisonment, Paul rejoiced in his circumstances, confident the Lord was in control and the Philippians were praying for him. How?
He knew deliverance in his situation was connected to their prayers. Not the prayer of the Philippians by itself but the Spirit of Jesus Christ that came to Paul through their prayers. Paul’s needs were met by the Spirit, and this was brought about by the prayers of his friends.
In my years combating my alcoholism, I tried every strategy in the book. But I didn’t succeed in getting sober until I gave up my attempts to control and gave it over to God. By surrendering, I became dependent on Him. Through my own prayers and through the prayers of others, I experienced a renewing of my mind — a transformation.
When we’re going through hardship or someone we love is suffering, it’s natural to want to do something. Like the Philippian church probably felt while Paul was imprisoned, we can feel helpless to free others from their struggles.
But instead of searching frantically for new solutions, we can engage the Holy Spirit within us and intercede in prayer on behalf of others. We can share our fears, expose our helplessness, and request God's protection and peace for our loved ones. His light can bathe them in clarity, comfort and courage, delivering them from darkness — and reminding us, through His presence, that He can do all things.
Dear Jesus, forgive me for forgetting that You are always in control. Help me release my fears of the unknown to strengthen my trust in Your outcome. Keep reminding me that relying on Your power releases the pressure on me. I want to practice praying for others more than pursuing my own plans for them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.