Offering Practical Help to Others

Help Someone 2

“I’ll pray for you.”

How many times have you been struggling with a practical need and been given this response?

Before I get into this, I want to say, prayer is the most important thing we can do for someone. Breakthroughs come from God, from the Holy Spirit working in our lives.  Miracles come through prayer.

With that said, I believe there are some problems with this being our sole response to people who are hurting or in need.

1. Empty words. 

Sometimes we say “I’ll praying for you” because it’s a good thing to say. It’s the Christian thing to say. Where others might say “I’m sorry for your situation” or “I hope it gets better,” We Christians say “I’ll pray for you.”

The leader of our women’s prayer group at church has this rule.  As soon as a prayer request is mentioned, we immediately stop and pray. It’s how she lives her life, because she realizes that without doing this, there is a very good possibility that we’ll forget or not get around to it.

Prayer is great, but we say “I’ll pray for you,” more often than we actually do it.

Put it in action: If you see someone struggling, hurting, or in need–stop what you’re doing and pray for them. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or eloquent, and maybe you’ll revisit it later and pray more in depth, but praying immediately ensures that you’ll honor your word.

2. It replaces practical help.

In James 2:14-17, we read this:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? …If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

My husband and I used to do this funny skit, called the $50 skit.  It’s about a college student who needs $50 to pay his electric bill.  In the skit, he meets a series of people, each one a Christian who has been blessed with an extra $50.  Thus begins a hilarious episode of each friend trying to help him get what he needs, using everything from “faith aerobics” to getting down on your belly to be “humble enough”, and “naming it and claiming it”.  In the end, a final person walks up to him–after his faith has been beaten down, and says simply “I don’t know what you’re going through, but the Lord put it on my heart to give you this $50.”  It’s funny, but powerful.

I was reminded of this skit recently when my friend shared a story about her 3 year old daughter.  She had told her daughter at the store, “You can’t run away–I need you to help me.”  To which her daughter replied:  “Okay, I’ll just pray for you.”

This innocent, funny story pierced my heart with conviction. On the one hand–it’s evidence of her mother’s teaching that she thought of prayer first, and that’s awesome.  But at the same time, how often do we do this?

How often do we say “I’ll pray for you,” when the practical help is within our power to give?

God works through people sometimes. You and me.

Put it in action: Do you know someone who is struggling right now? If so, think of a physical, practical thing that you can do for them in addition to praying. Can you make them a meal? Watch their children for a few hours? Give them a small gift to let them know you’re thinking of them? Send a Card? Or maybe just pick up the phone and call them. 

Power of Prayer

I fully believe in the power and importance of prayer.  There are so many times where we need God to step in because nothing else will help.

But maybe, sometimes, we should be a little more hands on. Yes, pray for others.  But also offer practical, physical support.

Is there a time in your life when someone has offered you real, practical help? 


    • aleena anna joy says

      Thanks ,crystal.i find ur words inspiring to pray for others,often times we say I’ill pray ,but forget to do so.I will try to make it a habit to pray instantly than postponing my prayer.and plz remember me in ur prayers too.God bless

  1. says

    This is Very good! I agree. I keep a little prayer card notebook where I write down this kind of request so that I WILL NOT FORGET to actually follow thru with the prayer.

  2. Laurie says

    Wonderful post and great ideas.. Thank you. I think as Christians sometime we do a huge disservice to our credibility and in representing Christ by out quick ‘Christian’ responses. Thank you for making me think!!!

  3. says

    Crystal, I really enjoyed this. I do exactly what your women's prayer group leader does. With my UnEmployed Faith ministry and all of the relationships in my life, I find myself promising to pray for someone at least a dozen times a day. For a while, I noticed I'd forget to pray. I was so well intentioned but there were just so many requests being sent my way, I couldn't keep up! So I gave myself the rule that anytime I say I'm going to pray for someone, I stop right then and there and do it. :)

    • Crystal says

      We do the same thing! Funny story. We always pray when we see an ambulance–which we’re usually in the car and I’m driving when that happens. It bothered my 5-year-old for a bit, because of course they’re taught in children’s church to close their eyes while praying…lol. I had to reassure him that I wasn’t closing my eyes while driving and that it was okay! lol

  4. says

    Amen to that! There's an African proverb that says "When you pray, move your feet." Meaning pray but also DO something. I think all too often we forget that God uses US to help others and serve others in His name. It's not always easy or convenient but we are called to be "doers of the Word." (I LOVE the book of James!) Thanks for touching on a subject that is so, so important!

  5. says

    Such good points here, Crystal! I realized a while back that I would respond to FB or blog posts saying that I was praying, but sometimes I would forget in the hurry of life after I logged off. So many things grab our attention! Now, when I say I’m going to pray, I stop right then and pray, before I continue scrolling. I think I must have been thinking of this issue subconsciously when I wrote my post for Monday and asked my readers to pray for my mom as they finished reading. :)

  6. says

    So good, Crystal! This was never more evident to me than when I faced cancer. We had tremendous prayer support, which we desperately needed. But we also needed meals while I recovered from surgery, help shuttling the kids to/from school, even help cleaning our home while I did radiation…and people stepped up to meet those needs. The surprising thing was the people who stepped in to do it…it wasn’t the ones I would have thought. It wasn’t necessarily our closest friends. Instead it was true brothers and sisters in faith. Great word….thank you for sharing.

    • Crystal says

      Nancy, that is awesome that people really stepped in to help you! So many times, that doesn’t seem to happen. I’m so glad your Christian brothers and sisters were there for you during that time…it’s heartening to hear about your experience. That’s who I want to be for those around me who have needs.

  7. Kristin Hill Taylor says

    Oh this is so good. I am guilty of saying “I’ll pray for you” and while I’m legitimately concerned, I don’t offer the situation back to God immediately or continually like I “should.” Thank you for sharing this – so much to think about here.

  8. says

    Your words reminded me of The Message version of Matthew 33:37… “Don’t say anything you don’t mean…” When we say I’ll pray for you we need to mean it and pray. But I love how you’ve shared on giving practical help too. I agree with Kristin…so much to think about. Nice to *meet* you for Out of the Blue Thursday. Blessings.

  9. Helene Smith says

    One of our friends sat up with me all night after our daughter was born so that my husband could sleep and I could nurse. She also translated for us since given the surgery and the drugs, my second language skills were sadly lacking. She put feet on her prayers for sure!

  10. says

    Wise words, my friend. How easy it is to say that we will pray for someone, but we need to move that prayer to action. I recently was asking for prayer because I was feeling stressed because my mom had made her regular doctor’s appt. right at a time when I wasn’t available to take her and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get her there. A friend of mine offered to take over some stuff and free me up and I so appreciated it.

    We need to open our eyes and be willing to help because sometimes we can be an answer to someone’s prayer!

    Thanks so much for linking up to the “Making Your Home Sing Monday” linky party today! :)

  11. says

    You are right. Prayer is important, but it does not replace any practical help God has gifted us with the faculties to give. Pray, but when we can do something, we are bound to do it. Christ did not just plead with His father on our behalf and pat us on the head. He walked to the cross. I have to believe that He expects no less from us.

  12. says

    I found your link on WLW. This hits home for me so much today. I have so many “Christian” friends and even a church who will pray for me, but when my car died and I needed help to get a new starter so I could get to work, it was two non-Christians who helped me, those “Christians” in my life simply turning away and praying for me instead.

    I’m struggling to survive, searching for a full time job, unable to feed myself or my furkids at times, trying to make sure I have lights, water, and a way to continue to get to my part-time job, and interviews for a full-time one … and I have felt so very alone in the Christian community here.

    Even when I have specifically asked for help from the church I was attending (won’t go back) they shrugged their shoulders and said they would pray for me. I’m not trying to take advantage of anything or anyone. I want to work, I need to work. But it would be just such a relief if for one minute someone offered to do something more than just pray, especially if they know my needs.

    When my life was better, I prayed for a lot of people. But I also did more than just whisper words to God. I gave, I spent, I bought, I donated, I volunteered, I helped, I offered. I believed that was what it meant to be a Christian. Not just with words, but with actions, and with love. Now … I feel like so many have either forgotten what Jesus did in his life, or they don’t have a clue what it means to walk this walk.

    Yes, God is powerful and He can answer prayers. But what if the answer is in someone’s actions and they just don’t get it?

    Okay. Shutting up now and stepping off my soapbox. Loved your blog.

  13. says

    I really appreciate this post! To paraphrase a quote I’ve heard, “Pray like it’s all up to God, then get to work like it’s all up to you.” I have been the recipient of so much practical service, particularly in this town and congregation where we live now. I have made some of the dearest friends, because people don’t just say “I’ll pray for you,” they say “When can I come pick up your kids?” or “Will you be home tonight for me to drop off a meal?” When I had my 3rd baby a year ago, it seems like we had meals, gifts, treats, friendly phone calls, and visits for weeks afterword. I had never experienced anything like it. I felt so blessed and loved! And it made me want to give others that experience as well.

    One last thought. Sometimes when I have asked my friends who are struggling what I can do for them, they say they’re doing fine. Or they shrug and say “Just pray for me.” I have found asking them to tell me specifically what I can pray for in their behalf has blessed us both. Sometimes their answers are unexpected (all the better reason to ask!), but every time I ask, the person has had a specific answer for me.

I love to hear your feedback and value your thoughts! All I ask is that we remain respectful and civil, even when we disagree. Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate you!

Thank you for joining in the discussion!