(The following is an excerpt from my book, Loving Your Friend Through Cancer.)
During one of the most difficult times in my treatment for cancer, my friend Sarah had a dream that she shared with me. Here is her description of the dream, in her own words:
“We were in a very large cathedral-style church. The pews were packed with people, some I recognized from church, but many I did not recognize at all. Everyone was praying and writing. They were writing their prayers. At the front of the church the stage was some sort of hospital room and you were lying on a table with doctors and nurses bustling around you. I talked to one woman who said, ‘I don’t know Marissa personally, but I’m honored to be here to pray for her.’ I was amazed at the outpouring of prayer for you and your healing. Everyone was giving you their prayers after they wrote them down as they left the church. I peeked at some of the letters and they all began with praise to God by worshiping his Name (mighty God, everlasting Father, omniscient, all-powerful, etc., just like we’ve learned from Isaiah). SO AWESOME.”
Her dream was an encouragement to me at a time of intense struggle and sorrow, because I knew it accurately depicted what was happening before the throne of the almighty God. Thousands of people were interceding on my behalf, including many I have never met. I regularly received cards from strangers saying they were praying for me. I received dozens of small yellow postcards from the prayer room of a church in Tennessee, letting me know someone had prayed for me. I still don’t know who put my name on that prayer list in Tennessee, but I am thankful.
Nothing is as powerful as bringing your friend before the throne of her creator and redeemer. Interceding on her behalf before the Lord of the universe is one of the greatest gifts you can give her. Long after the doctors tell her she’s cancer-free, keep your friend on your list for frequent prayer. And if the Lord calls your friend home to heaven, keep fervently praying for her loved ones.
Let your friend know you are praying for her on a regular basis. But please don’t just say it flippantly—do it! Your prayers for your friend not only benefit her as you intercede for her, but they will also benefit you as the Lord works in your heart in the midst of your own grief.
Pray for healing for your friend, of course. But don’t stop there. Here are some additional ways to pray for your friend.
- Pray for her to feel the closeness of the Lord as he strengthens, sustains, and comforts her (Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 62:1-2, Psalm 63:5-8).
- Pray for wisdom for friends and family members to support and encourage her in ways she needs the most (James 1:5).
- Pray against the feeling of isolation—physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5b, Psalm 42, Psalm 56:8).
- Pray for wisdom in making medical decisions so that the patient, family members, and doctors will not have any regrets (Psalm 112:7-8).
- If she’s married, pray for God to strengthen her marriage and deepen her connection with her husband, and that she will look to the Lord to meet her needs when her husband falls short (Ephesians 5:22-23).
- Pray that she would develop a deep and abiding trust in the Lord, not placing her hope in a particular outcome, but wholly in God’s character—his sovereignty, goodness, and faithfulness to her specifically in this situation (Isaiah 43, Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 8:38-39).
- Pray that she will feel free to ask for help and support when she needs it, claiming the promise that God will meet all her needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
- Pray for joy and peace as she grieves the loss of her health and her “before cancer” expectations for her life, and that she will not be anxious about the future (Romans 15:13, Lamentations 3:21-24, Philippians 4:6-8).
- Pray that she will not waste her suffering, but be transformed and sanctified through the experience of suffering for God’s glory (Romans 8:28-29, Romans 12:1-2).
- Pray that God will prepare her to comfort others with the comfort she is now receiving (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).