It was a sort of rough week around here. The silver lining to that was that my prayer life was very active. However, I didn’t spend much time praying for my kids or myself or my husband. I focused on praying for a neighbor whose son had a breakdown at college, for a close friend who is struggling to support-but-not-enable her nephew (a heroin addict) and for a friend whose 16-year-old was in a coma after a suicide attempt. When my own life is difficult, I find that praying for others is actually a form of self-care, part of what keeps me healthy, productive and sane.
Lest you think I walk around with a halo, I assure you this is a learned behavior. I have a strong tendency to turn inward and block out others’ problems when I’m facing tough times, hunkering down to focus on myself because I think I don’t have the bandwidth to cope. But I’ve come to realize that tendency probably doesn’t come from God.
I figured this out when I belonged to a weekly prayer group during a particularly hard time in my life. Hearing and honoring the needs of others whose concerns were different from mine was, even in the midst of my turmoil, incredibly refreshing. It didn’t matter how big or small the other people’s needs were; they all pointed my heart toward God.
That experience taught me that making an effort to pray for others when I’m hurting has a unique benefit—it prevents my prayer life from shrinking to the size of my woes. What’s more, it broadens and deepens and refreshes my conversations with God. And can I point out that it does some good?
How great is that?! We are given the ability to add good to the world, even when we are suffering ourselves. Go for it.