Praying with Christ’s sufferings is a prayer method that uses your personal pain and suffering in a redemptive way by offering it to God in prayer, uniting yourself with the sufferings of Christ as you intercede for another person or a world concern.
How to do this prayer practice:
When I was a girl, if I was taking something someone had done to me personally, my mother would see me beginning to get upset and she would say, “Judy, don’t waste how you’re feeling. You can offer it up to God and help someone by praying for them. Think of all of the poor souls who don’t have anyone to pray for them.”
2. Acknowledge your hurt and pain.
We encounter personal pain, suffering and hurt in many different forms in daily life. We may be suffering from a physical illness or we may be hurt or rejected by others and suffering mental pain. Whatever the cause, admit to yourself and to God that you hurt.
3. Surrender the hurt to God.
Instead of running away from pain, instead of trying to ignore it, or instead of trying to numb the pain through unhealthy means, prayerfully accept what has happened to you.
4. Identify with Christ’s sufferings.
Mediate on the life of Christ. If you are in physical pain, remember the physical torment Christ suffered during his trial and crucifixion such as scourging, being struck, having a crown of thorns placed on His head. If you are in mental pain, remember the mental torment Christ endured such as being rejected, falsely accused, mocked and spit upon.
5. Put your focus on Christ.
As you identify with Christ who suffered willingly, open yourself to intimacy with Christ as you feel through your own pain what He went through because of His great love for us. Share the suffering with Him. Since He has already redeemed, allow his redemptive grace to flow through your pain and your prayers. Ask Christ to use your pain or injury for His good purpose.
6. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the names of people into your mind to pray for.
Sometimes God will bring people who are going through difficult times to your mind. Other times, you will already be carrying a burden for someone for whom you will naturally begin to pray.
7. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring situations and world concerns to you mind to pray about.
Don’t overlook praying for larger issues such as poverty, those suffering from natural disasters, those outside of the Church, and justice issues.
8. A simple sample prayer.
Here’s a sample of how you might pray: Jesus, I offer this pain to you in union with Your sacrifice on the cross… Then mention the specific person or situation for which you are offering your intentions and prayers.
My personal experiences and tips:
Using your pain as a prayer offering gives your pain and suffering purpose and meaning. It also keeps you from focusing on your bitterness, anxiety and frustration. It gives a new quality to your time of suffering because it can be used as a worthy means of redemption. And although you are in pain, you can feel a certain joy and peace.
As recent example, one weekend as our pontoon boat was being docked at the lake a sudden bump of the boat knocked me hard onto the dock on my back and back side. I fell into the water between the dock and boat. I was taken to the emergency room and they told me that I was lucky that I hadn’t broken my back. They couldn’t do anything to treat me, even though one whole side of my body was nothing but a large, painful, uninterrupted black bruise.
That night as I lay in awake because of the terrible pain, I thought about someone dear to me whose husband was out of work and who had called me recently extremely worried about how they were going to pay a bank note that was due. As the painful hours in bed crept by I offered my physical pain to God and used it as a means to help me pray with the sufferings of Christ for my loved one. The next time I spoke to her over the phone, the financial and employment issues still weren’t resolved, but I could sense a lightness in her voice and the heavy sense of worry seemed to be gone.
How to fit this prayer idea into your schedule:
Whenever you encounter physical or mental pain, do as my mother always said. Offer it up to God.
The Biblical origins and traditional roots of this method of prayer:
In the Bible I think about Mary watching her beloved son Jesus dying on the cross. She joined her mother’s mental suffering with Jesus’ physical sufferings. She didn’t let the injustice done to Jesus poison her heart to humanity, but rather she allowed the suffering to draw mercy out of her heart. (see John 19:25-27; Acts 1:14)
Philippians 3:10, 11 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” NIV
2 Cornithians 1:5-7 “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in your patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comforts.” NIV
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8: 17
Copyright Judy Guilfoil 2011