Every so often a church experiences a wave of suffering among its members. The prayer requests hurt even and leave us stammering in prayer. Such has been the case recently in the church I attend. An undiagnosed, debilitating blood disease, a brain bleed, an eating disorder, and the unforeseen death of a loved one have all filled our prayer chain in recent days. As a result, I’ve found myself repeatedly interceding in prayer for brothers and sisters experiencing deep suffering.
Romans 8 often captures exactly how I feel in praying for heartbreaking situations like these: I “do not know what to pray for as [I] should” (v. 26). Thankfully, the Spirit intercedes for me in my weakness. However, I’ve also found myself running to the Psalms for biblical, concrete, and specific prayer requests. Yes, God hears the prayer, “Be with Johnny,” but that’s such a fuzzy prayer; I don’t really know what it means. I believe God loves to answer requests with more meat on their bones, but sometimes it’s difficult to know just what those requests are. My advice: run to Scripture. Today I’m going to share some requests built specifically around Psalm 27. But you could do the same thing from most any psalm. This just happens to be the one that has found its way into my recent prayers.
Request #1: “Be light when everything feels dark” (v. 1)
The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom should I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — whom should I dread? (Psa 27:1)
Psalm 27 opens with the famous declaration: “The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” The rhetorical answer, of course, is nobody. However, we’re prone to forget that God is our light and camp out in the darkness, which makes easy pathways for our hearts to fear. Think of a sufferer in your life. Whatever their circumstances, they’re undoubtedly being asked to navigate some sort of darkness—the unknown or temptations from the evil one. Pray on their behalf that God will drive that darkness away and replace it with the light of His presence.
Request #2: “Defeat fears” (v. 1)
Fears and darkness usually go together like little boys and mud puddles. Whether a sufferer in your life is facing a dire diagnosis, financial hardship, or relational turmoil, they’re almost certainly grappling with fear. We like to know that we’re going to be comfortable and that everything is going to be okay, but suffering takes that illusion of certainty away. We may feel that our lives will never be okay again and wonder how we’ll ever be able to survive this change. Pray for suffering friends that God will defeat their fears, that they will have grace to navigate even their difficult circumstances with confidence and unwavering trust in God, their defense and stronghold.
Request #3: “Give a thirst for the eternal” (v. 4)
I have asked one thing from the LORD; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the LORD and seeking him in his temple. (Psa 27:4)
Most of us struggle with giving the here-and-now too much of our hearts. We know that Jesus told us to lay up eternal treasure, but the people, problems, and pressures of today can often overtake the cockpit of our minds, shoving the more nebulous eternal realities to the back. However, by God’s good design, seasons of suffering have a way of shaking things up and realigning our priorities. As you intercede on behalf of a suffering sister or brother, ask that God grant that person a thirst for eternal things. Pray that God would loosen their grip on this world and make heaven shine a little brighter. May they say along with the psalmist that they would rather “stand at the threshold of the house of God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Request #4: “Be their shelter in the storm” (v. 5)
For he will conceal me in his shelter in the day of adversity; he will hide me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. (Psa 27:5)
The world offers all sorts of pseudo-refuges, making it easy to escape into a TV show, an entertaining novel, or a period of mindless scrolling. For some, medications, self-harm, alcohol, or food may become the refuge of choice. Still others may find shelter in a shopping cart, trying to numb their feelings with “retail therapy.” But, of course, whether our suffering is severe or light, only one Source will provide the refuge these imposters promise but never deliver: the Rock of Ages. Psalm 91 puts it beautifully:
The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. … He will cover you with his feathers; you will take refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. (Psa 91:1, 4)
As you pray for those battling great trials, ask that God be their refuge, fortress, and shelter in the midst of the tempest. Satan will try to turn them aside to a leaky shanty, but pray that they find the one and only Shelter that will withstand the fiercest of storms.
Request #5: “Drive them to Yourself” (v. 8)
My heart says this about you: “Seek his face.” LORD, I will seek your face. (Psa 27:8)
Sometimes the people you’re praying for are near to your heart but far from God. Perhaps they at one time claimed to know Him as Savior and have since walked away; or maybe they’ve never professed to believe in Christ. In these situations, implore the Almighty that He drive the wayward heart to Him—that He break their heart, and grant them repentance.
For both Christians and unbelievers alike, trials will either push us closer to Christ or drive us farther from Him. We won’t stay in neutral. So, whether you’re on your knees on behalf of a saint or an “ain’t,” ask that God would sovereignly use these bitter circumstances to draw the wounded person to Himself. May they seek His face and not grow bitter against Him. May these circumstances act as a magnet to attract the sufferer to the Savior and not repel them.
Request #6: “Help them see Your goodness right here, right now” (v. 13)
[I would have despaired] unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. (Psa 27:13 NASB95)
If we fail to see God’s goodness, our hearts’ only response will be despair. What other option could there possibly be? I struggle with this enough on a daily basis. I can walk through a normal day completely blind of the goodness and kindness of God. How much easier is it for a person navigating back-breaking suffering? In seasons of trial, we’re often tempted to see no farther than our own circumstances. As you pray for a hurting soul, ask that God would help them see His goodness in the here-and-now. Even in the midst of their very real, very painful circumstances, may He make His goodness and grace plain to them, in both big things and small.
Request #7: “Strengthen their hearts in the waiting” (v. 14)
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the LORD. (Psa 27:14)
Who among us doesn’t hate to wait? I know I certainly do. I don’t like to wait in a drive-thru line for my French fries, let alone through a season of suffering. And I don’t think I’m alone. Sufferers usually don’t have any choice but to wait, but ask that God strengthen their hearts while they’re doing it. Ask that God keep them from weariness or despair, from doubts and deceit.
Maybe you’re the one who’s in a season of suffering right now. Use these verses to shape your prayers for yourself. Prayers according to the will of God are prayers that God will answer, so let us approach His throne with confidence!