When we are going through problems and challenges, we all need prayers of encouragement.  Here’s how to use the power of prayer to encourage the discouraged.

How to do this prayer practice:

1.  Meditate on the ways others have encouraged you. 

Think through your own experiences to times when someone encouraged you when you needed it the most.  Encouragement can come in many forms.  Often it comes through a word of encouragement whether spoken, sent in a card, texted or emailed.   It can also be communicated non-verbally through a smile, an outstretched hand, through clapping your hands, a pat on the back or a hug.  It also is communicated through symbolic gifts, such as through flowers or a book.  We can be encouraged by someone’s presence when we are ill or at a funeral.  Hearing the testimony and reassurance from others who have thrived and survived the same challenges we are facing also makes a huge difference when we are discouraged.  And praying for or with someone who is discouraged always makes a world of difference.

2.  Pray for the spiritual gift of encouragement.

Encouragement is actually a spiritual gift and an extremely important one.  Here’s a list of spiritual gifts that includes encouragement.  Romans 12:6,8  “We have different gifts according to the grace given to us…prophecy, serving, teaching… If it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”  (New International Version)   When we operate using a spiritual gift, we have the power of the Holy Spirit behind whatever actions we are taking.

3.  Believe that you have the authority to encourage.

In Titus 2:15  it says, “Encourage and rebuke with all authority.”  Often we are comfortable with  “rebuking” or letting people know when they are in error because of the authority of the rules we are following.   However we fail to realize that we have the same God-given authority and ability to encourage.  When we encourage, we are doing God’s work and actually speaking and acting on His behalf.

4.  Ask God to make you more perceptive to the discouragement of others.

Often we fail to use our God given gift of encouragement because people around us seem to be doing just fine, at least on the outside.  Even the strongest, most successful person you know needs this.  That’s why giving a word of encouragement or saying a prayer of encouragement is always the right impulse to follow.  No one turns down encouragement!

Picking up on clues that someone you meet might be discouraged include attention to their negative or dejected body language, listening to their words and tone of voice, using your knowledge about their life situation and stress levels, noticing an unusually strong reaction to a small failure, seeing a lack of enthusiasm or energy, hearing them express questions about whether God hears or cares or about their own worth or worthiness.  Most of all, listen to and follow the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit who knows everyone’s heart.

5.  Pray for a discouraged person. 

If you’re unable to pray in person with the discouraged person, pray for them and find some way to let them know that you are praying.  The sorts of things you might want to pray for them might include that God would send them signs of encouragement, might help them know that they are loved and valued and that He will strengthen them during this time so they won’t give up.

6.  Pray with a discouraged person.

By far the greatest gift of encouragement you can give anyone is to actually pray with them out loud.   Praying words of encouragement with someone differs greatly from simply saying words of encouragement to them because in prayer you are allowing God to speak through you the words of encouragement He wants them to hear.  You are no longer acting on your own authority, but rather under the Biblical authority earlier mentioned in this article.

Before you pray, ask God to show you something about the person’s heart.  It’s often good to begin your prayer with words of affirmation by thanking God for the good qualities you see in this person.  Also, pray specifically thanking God for the good they have done for others in the past or the good qualities they have displayed in the face of adversity and challenge.  Most of all, express God’s love for them.  Informally pray similar words of any scriptures about love that might come to your mind to describe to them God’s care.  Continue praying that God will send them times of rest and strength for each hour.  Specifically pray honestly about any specific disappointments you know the person has suffered and give them to God.  And end with an affirmation of God’s presence and care.

When praying a prayer of encouragement, body language also is very important.  If possible, hold the person by the hand while praying, or rest your hand gently on their shoulder.  If appropriate, give them a hug after the prayer.  And don’t forget to smile and radiate God’s love.

My personal tips and experiences

When I was teaching an adult Sunday school class an unfortunate series of events led to the shutting down of a Christian school where many of our class members worked, had children in attendance or were active on the board of directors.  Added on top of that were unemployment issues and feelings of loss.   Our whole class was discouraged!

While all of this was fresh on everyone’s minds and hearts, I set aside our usual lesson and taught a lesson on encouragement instead.  After going over scriptures on encouragement, I had the class break down into small groups and had each person pray out loud a prayer of encouragement for the person on their right.  As you can imagine, in any group there are those who aren’t terribly comfortable praying out loud, but everyone met the challenge and said a very meaningful, personal prayer for the person next to them.   I absolutely believe that more power was released by those prayers than by any 2 year Bible study we might have done on encouragement.   And I believe that the most precious prayers said that day were by those who overcame their personal trepidation and prayed out loud because they wanted to encourage their friends.

The Scriptural or traditional roots of this prayer practice:

Acts 15:32  A letter was sent to the church at Antioch 31”The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.  32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.  “

I Thess. 4:18  The preceding verse talks about those who have died in Christ and the assurance we will all be gathered to Christ at the end of the age.  “Therefore, encourage each other with these words.”

Hebrews 3:13  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  14  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Romans 15:4-6  “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Copyright Karen Barber 2012.  All rights reserved.