What to Do When Asking for Prayers Feels Selfish
- Janet Thompson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 15 Mar
“Why didn’t you ask for prayer?” my daughter asked after church. I was going through my third battle with breast cancer.
My husband and I had recently moved to a rural mountain town and started attending the local community church. After being a member of a large mega-church, this new much smaller church had a time during the service for “Prayer Praise & Share” where congregants could ask for prayer requests and share their praises. While I loved the openness and opportunity this offered the church family to pray for each other, I was still getting used to it.
I answered my daughter that since we were just getting to know people, I didn’t want to ask for something so personal. I also didn’t want to be known as the new woman with breast cancer. I was still adjusting to the shock myself since it was only two years after the last surgery.
In the end, I did myself a big disservice. Our church is a very giving and loving church that I later learned rallies around those in need and they would’ve brought us meals and prayed for me, but I didn’t give them the opportunity.
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Why Do We Struggle to Ask Others for Prayer?
Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation as I was when it doesn’t feel comfortable asking for prayer. Thinking about it later, I knew there was more to my hesitancy than how I answered my daughter.
We Don’t Want Others to Know
Sometimes our situation is so personal that even asking for prayer means we’re admitting the problem aloud. We’ve struggled with it ourselves but there’s something that makes it too real when we verbalize the details. Will others misunderstand or minimize our request? Will they repeat something we say in confidence? Or respond in a way that forces us to realize the severity of our situation. As long as we don’t talk about it, even to God, maybe it will just go away.
God wants us not only to pray to him but also to seek the prayers of others in the family of God.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2
Our Issue Seems Trivial to Us
When we know of so many people dealing with problems bigger than ours are, we’re embarrassed to ask for prayer. After all, our request feels minor compared to what others are experiencing. We don’t want to bother or burden people, or God, with things we should be able to handle on our own. It just seems selfish! Prideful. Self-centered.
God doesn’t weigh prayers on a scale of severity of importance. Everything that troubles us is important to him.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
Asking for Prayer Might Make Us Look Spiritually Weak
We’re concerned that we might not appear spiritually mature or don’t read our Bibles enough. Often people will respond to our prayer request with Scripture or remind us that God is in control. Shouldn’t we already know that? It’s embarrassing to admit that yes we do know, but we could use some spiritual encouragement right now. So we don’t ask.
No one has the spiritual life completely figured out and that’s why the church is available to support each other and live in fellowship together. When one of us is in need, someone is there ready to help spiritually and physically.
Asking for prayer actually shows strength, not weakness. We’re created to live the Christian life in unity.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecc. 4:9-10, 12
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Rom. 12:4-5 NLT
We Want to Try and Control Everything Ourselves
Have you ever said, “It got so bad, I had to pray”? We all have at one time mistakenly thought that we can deal with things without needing anyone, even God. Tough it out and go to him when all our own efforts fail. That’s the exact opposite of how God wants us to live.
God actually wants to see humility in us. Let go of our pride and admit that we need wise counsel or a shoulder to lean on. We need him! Independence is not the Christian way. We depend on God first and then he may put people in our path to embolden us to let the body of Christ help. He wants us to welcome fellow believers into our personal space.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Prov. 11:2
What Does the Bible Say about Asking for Prayer?
We typically consider it a privilege to pray for others, yet many Christians still question whether we’re supposed to ask for prayer for ourselves. Aren’t prayers to focus on other people? The answer is that God cares about our needs just as he cares about the needs of everyone. Reading the Book of Psalms, we see that many of those Scriptures are cries of David pleading for God to help him. To come to his rescue. Even to save his life! The New Living Translation Book of Psalm has 109 Scriptures asking God for help. Here are just a few. Try personalizing these by putting your own name into them.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Ps. 5:2 NLT
Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. Ps. 10:17 NLT
O Lord, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help. Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips. Ps. 17:1 NLT
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. Ps. 18:6 NLT
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. Ps. 30:2
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Ps. 121:2
God instructs us to pray to him about everything!
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matt. 7:7
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:13-14
Asking for prayer keeps us accountable. We’re called on to pray for one another, but we also can’t live on our own strength. God made us for community. It blesses others to pray for us. It’s actually selfish when we try to go it alone.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
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How to Break Free from the Worry and Stigma of Asking for Prayers
God wants to hear from his children just like parents want to know where their children are struggling. Prayer is how we communicate with God. It blesses and honors him. It shows we have trust in him guiding and leading our life. How would we know what he wants us to do without asking? That’s all prayer is: taking our worries, our concerns, our requests, our hopes to him in prayer and then praising him when we see the answers, even when it’s not what we were expecting.
A good start is to journal your prayer requests. Write them down in the form of a list with a column for praises. Date your list and then note when you see God answer. When I was praying for my prodigal daughter, I learned to pray Scripture. I took verses, like some I mentioned in this article, and personalized them so I knew I was praying God’s will back to him. Then I wrote down what I hoped to see happen and noted the praises I saw. It soon became a daily habit, which I share in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter.
It’s hard for parents to admit they have a prodigal or are struggling with parenting, but when you lay those kinds of concerns before the Lord, you begin to feel a sense of peace and hope. So often, you discover that others are dealing with the same thing you are and you can pray for each other.
It’s also helpful to have a prayer partner, someone trustworthy that you can confide in and they feel confident sharing their prayer requests with you. If you’re married, pray together as a couple and seek God’s guidance for your marriage and for each other.
We’ll never be disappointed asking God for prayer, but we’ll never know what God had planned for us if we don’t.
Nothing Is too Small
Returning to church after my first breast cancer surgery, some friends approached my husband and me and asked how they could help us. Without hesitation, my husband said we could use a meal, and then he said we needed prayer. Right there on the church patio this couple embraced us and prayed over us. I’ve never forgotten how loved and cherished I felt by them and God.
Dave and I try to make it a practice of not even waiting for people to ask for prayer when we know they’re having a difficult time, we offer to pray. It feels selfish of us not to take the time to pray for them and continue following up to let them know we’re still praying. Seeing their response and gratefulness reminds me that it’s not selfish to ask for prayer, it’s selfish not to.
How often have you heard, “Why didn’t you tell us? We would have loved to pray for you!”
Remember, it’s God you’re praying to who loves you and cares about every aspect of your life. Nothing is too small or insignificant. Why don’t you stop and pray right now.
Dear Lord, please help me to remove all barriers to asking for prayer. Give me the courage to ask for help when I need it. Remind me that you are my heavenly Father and you know my needs before I ask, but still you want to hear from me. Help me let go of any preconceived ideas I might have about not praying for myself or asking for prayer from others who care about me. Open my heart and my eyes to pray for those who are in need of knowing how much you love them. I love you Lord and I know you sacrificed for me so that we could have this supernatural relationship. Draw me close. I leave my worries and concerns in your capable hands. Amen.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. Ps. 34:5 NLT
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. Ps. 34:17 NLT
For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them. Matt. 18:20 NLT
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