How do we pray for people who are sick?

This is the 4th post in a series on prayer. Post 1 dealt with the fact that we all like the idea of prayer, and yet are somewhat ashamed about putting it into practice. Post 2 examined the fact that prayer is important and non-negotiable because it’s about God and not ourselves, yet practically it is going to be difficult. Post 3 had a closer look at how we respond as Watcher to ‘troublesome’ passages in the Bible about healing.

It’s time to answer the question: what should we pray?


Jesus and prayer

As Watchers we want to pray for healing. It’s right to pray for healing. But we know, as heart-breaking as it is, immediate physical healing is not always in God’s plan. God’s glory is not always best demonstrated through healing.

That is something which is difficult to come to terms with on a personal, emotional level. It also presents a problem. How then are we to pray?

The truth is, we don’t always know what God wants. He is wiser and better than us. His plans are higher than ours. His vision is broader than our gaze.

Contradictory prayers (Luke 22:42)

“Take this cup from me.”

(Please heal.)

In Gethsemane before he died, Jesus prayed for healing. He prayed for relief from present and future agony. He prayed against physical and spiritual pain.

As the Son of God, he put His stamp of approval on such prayers. He sanctifies them for us. More than that, He knows and understands what it is to pray them.

“Not my will but yours be done.”

(Please display Your glory.)

Prayer for physical healing is right – but it can also be selfish. If it arises from a sense that we “deserve” healing, that God cannot be good or right if He does not give us exactly what we want… this is wrong.

We cannot know how God will be glorified in the specific instances of life. We know not how the angels are looking down at earth and praising Him all the more because He is using suffering to make His name great. Sometimes we may catch glimpses, tiny acknowledgement that God is indeed working through our situation. Most of the time, however, we simply walk on, waiting for that glorious day when all will be made clear. We don’t know the future. We scarcely know the present. It is because of this we must pray both of these prayers.

“Your will be done” can often seem like a throwaway line, a pointless resignation (because of course, if God is God, His Will will be done). But it doesn’t have to be. “Your Will be done” can also be a spoken realization that God’s glory is the Most Important Thing.

More important than healing.

Jesus, fully Man, fully God, knew this and managed to pray it in His darkest moment.

Can we accept this, Watchers? Can we sit in humility beneath God and pray both these prayers, not trading one for the other? Can we hold both of them close to our heart, yet leave it to God to work out the realities of them?

Please heal.

Please display Your glory.

Specific prayers

Should we then prefix every prayer with ‘if it is Your Will’? It wouldn’t hurt. And yet, although we may not know what God’s Will should look like in the lives of specific people – we do know what God’s Will is.

Sickness changes everything. But in another sense, it changes nothing.

Our Loved Ones have ruined physical bodies – but their eternal souls are still intact. Their greatest need is still Jesus. If they do not know Him, we must pray for their salvation. If they do, the Bible tells us exactly how to pray for them. We are to pray that they may experience and produce:

Salvation and freedom (Eph 1:11-12)

Growth in wisdom, holiness and Christ-likeness (Phil 1)

Dependence on God (2 Cor. 4)

Love for God and for our neighbor (Col 1:9-14)

Good works flowing from grace received (2 Thess. 1:11)

Huge prayers

Jesus gives us an example of praying for other Christians by praying for His disciples the night before His death. He prayed:

All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 17:10

We can praise God that our Loved One brings Him glory

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. Vs.11

We can pray for unity in relationships

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Vs. 15

We can pray for protection from Satan and sin

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. Vs. 17

We can pray for a love of God’s Word and for godliness

… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. Vs. 21

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Vs. 22-23

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory vs. 24

We can pray for them as a member of the body of believers. For their relationship with Jesus.

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Vs. 26

We can pray that they will grow closer to God and feel His love

I don’t pray prayers like this nearly enough. I suspect it’s because so often my number one desire for my Loved One or for others is merely physical healing or safety.

My prayers

This is the last post in the prayer series.

I once read that when God heals someone miraculously, He is giving us a glimpse of what will come in the future. This resonated with me. He is whetting our tongue, giving us a foretaste. In Heaven our Loved One will be healed. One day, our prayers for healing will be answered. This is certain.

Yet we (understandably) want our Loved One to be healed. Can’t God give a glimpse of Heaven through them? When He doesn’t it’s easy to become discouraged. To forget that God can work miracles. That God can answer prayer.

God didn’t heal my Mum

I have prayed for my mum’s healing for over fifteen years. Other people prayed long before I came around. And you know what? My mum hasn’t been healed. Her illness has only gotten worse.

This is hard, so hard to bear.

God did heal my sister

When my sister was seventeen the doctors found a brain tumour. She was in hospital for three months. Had 10 different operations.

In the end, God healed her. He healed her without an operation. The surgeons went in to try again – and found that the problem was gone. They couldn’t believe it.

We could.

The recovery was long and slow. We wanted her home before Christmas. I’d been praying for 3 months. I was dry and exhausted. I was sick of it all. I had even half given up praying.

One day I could take it no longer. I sat down and I begged God to bring her home on the day before Christmas Eve.

The next day the doctors told us she definitely wouldn’t be able to come home on that day.

She came home. God answered prayer. Miraculously.

To conclude

I’ve prayed specific prayers before. I’ve prayed exhausted prayers before. They haven’t been answered in the way I wanted. Do I know why God decided to answer my prayer that day? Why my sister didn’t need another operation, but my mum is still sick?


What can I say? What encouragement can I give?

God does what is best according to His glorious purpose. Do I always like His purpose? Definitely not. Does that mean His purpose is wrong or cruel?

Absolutely not.

I have a hard time remembering this myself, but I think it is true: We do not need to know the outcome of our prayer before we pray, we simply need to know whether the One we pray to is trustworthy. That is what makes the prayer worth it.

Oh my friends, if I know anything, it is this. He is trustworthy. He is worth it.

So let us pray.

// do you have trouble knowing what to pray? Do your prayers for your Loved One differ from your prayers for others? How often do you pray for people as Jesus prayed for His disciples?



Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

2 thoughts on “How do we pray for people who are sick?”

  1. Do you have trouble knowing what to pray? Yes I certainly do, especially when I am going through a rough patch in life

    Do your prayers for your Loved One differ from your prayers for others? To be honest, I thought all prayers were the same, no matter who you are praying for

    How often do you pray for people as Jesus prayed for His disciples? I don’t actually know how to do this yet and I really should learn

    I pretty much struggle with everything that you have written in your story today and I have been very encouraged by this prayer series because I struggle with prayer every time I want to do it and I want to learn and grow in my prayer life and half the time I don’t know where to start and you have taught me a lot through this series and encouraged me and I just want to say thank you ❤️️☺️


    1. Hi Paige! Thank you so much for sharing. Prayer is definitely a journey, and one I struggle with quite frequently – there is always something to learn, or a lack of trust to repent from. I find it hard to remember that prayer is more important than action, because God is the One who works and not me!
      Thank you for your encouraging words 🙂 and I will pray for you as you continued to seek Jesus! Your desire to do so is important and beautiful.


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