My greatest strength is also my worst weakness: I’m a solution-oriented, take-action kinda guy. If there’s a problem, I charge in to help. But I can also run people over in the process. So, I really struggled when a friend came to me with an unspoken prayer request.
I knew something traumatic had occurred, but he didn’t want to talk about it. How was I supposed to administer advice if he wouldn’t give me details?! I turned to a trusted spiritual mentor for help, and his response shocked me: “He’ll talk about it when he’s ready.” I didn’t want to wait that long! But, I did wait because I love my friend, and I trust my mentor. It wasn’t easy.
How do you handle it when someone asks you to pray but doesn’t give you any details about what to pray for? As I searched for an answer, I learned some powerful lessons that I think you’ll appreciate.
If you’re facing a situation where someone you love is hurting, but they won’t discuss it with you, then this article will help. And if you’re dealing with something painful and don’t know who to turn to, this will speak to your struggle, too.
How to Respond to an Unspoken Prayer Request
There are many reasons that someone might not want to share their prayer request. For example, it might not be an appropriate moment to talk about it. Perhaps you’re in a public place, or they don’t have enough time to share the whole story.
Your friend may also still be processing the situation themselves and not know how to describe it to you. They may be so physically, mentally, or spiritually exhausted that they can’t even put their pain into words.
The other person could be dealing with shame, guilt, or fear of being judged. It’s a natural human tendency to put up walls and push people away when we feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions. They could also be under a heavy load of anxiety or depression, and it took a lot of courage for them to even ask for help.
Whatever the reason is that they don’t want to tell you what happened, here are some tips about how to handle this situation:
Don’t be offended
I’ll be honest this was my first reaction. I thought that my friend didn’t trust me, and I took his lack of response personally. But, as we explored above, there can be many reasons that someone doesn’t want to share a prayer request. So, don’t make their difficult situation all about you.
As the apostle Paul tells us, we should “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Remind your friend that no matter what happened, God is compassionate and faithful and loves them deeply. He is there with them in their pain.
You can also encourage your friend to take their needs to God in prayer. They can say the prayers of David to guide their own conversations with God. I love the simplicity of Psalm 39:12, “Hear my prayer, Lord, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping.”
Ask questions and respect boundaries
If you have a strong relationship with the person, you can ask questions like, “How can I pray for you?” and “What can I do to help?” Another great question is, “Do you have a trusted friend or pastor you could talk with?” But if they seem uncomfortable or unable to answer questions, don’t pry. Instead, trust God to do His work.
We feel like we have to have an answer for everything, but we don’t. There is great power in simply listening to someone. If you can’t figure out what to say at the moment, follow up at another time to let them know how much you care about them.
How to Pray for an Unspoken Prayer Request
As author Melissa Henderson says, “God doesn’t need us to know all the facts about what we are asked to pray about. God knows the heart and soul of each person and is already listening and hearing the prayers.”
Just as Moses intercedes on behalf of the children of Israel, you can also intercede for the person making the unspoken prayer request. Instead of trying to guess exactly what to pray for, just pray for the person who made the request. Lift them up to the Holy Spirit, who intercedes on their behalf (Romans 8:26).
Here are some other helpful prayers for this situation:
- Ask God to cover them with His peace so they can face their situation with confidence in Christ.
- Ask God for wisdom about what to say that will encourage your friend to trust God’s faithfulness.
- Ask the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” to comfort them in all their troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Then continue interceding on their behalf, as it says in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Reflect and Pray
While there could be many reasons for unspoken prayer requests, these kinds of situations can also be a good time for you to reflect:
- Are you a safe person?
- Do you create safe spaces for hurting people?
- Do you lead with grace and love instead of judgment?
Examine your heart and confess any hidden sin you find there. Ask God to show you how to be a kind, non-judgmental friend. Commit to listening, loving, and meeting people where they are. Trust God to take care of your friend and to continue growing you in holiness.