Every fulfilling relationship requires intentionality: a day-in, day-out choice to do things that nourish our connections with those we love. That’s why we prepare for our time with the people we care for–working in advance on everything from the questions we’ll ask in a hospital room to the food we’ll bring a family during a time of grief, or how long we’ll stay at the home of a person we’re praying with.
But one of the best uses of intentionality comes between care appointments: in our time with God, lingering in prayer over each individual God has called us to care for. Years ago, a friend asked me, “How would our discipleship be different if we were intentional to linger in prayer about other people’s longings, losses, and dreams?”
In visits with the people you care for, what patterns are you noticing about their behavior? How do they talk about their emotions? Their decisions? Their habits? Their outlook on their situations? How are those shaping their deep desires and conversations with God?
Part of Christian maturity is the ability to identify patterns in people’s situations, choices, and temperament–and to listen in prayer for ways God may be speaking about those. What is God showing you about the people in your care? Most of us want to listen to God’s voice about the people we love–but few of us know how to enter into that kind of relational discernment.
One of the ways we can start leaning into these prayerful practices is simply by putting into our calendar specific times where we will be guided (whether by a specific Scripture, a group of specific prayer exercises, or a combination of other resources) into listening for God’s voice about our own lives and the lives of others.
To start this, identify a time and place where you’ll regularly listen for God’s voice. Start by listening and setting aside time of silence, then move through the resources you have, and presenting what’s on your heart.
Once you’ve done that, consider engaging specific questions that relate to the people in your care. You may have your own; but if not, consider using the ones below as a starting point. Use whichever ones seem helpful, and ignore the rest.
Finally–after listening, processing, and pausing, linger for a moment with God over what you think you’ve heard; ask the Holy Spirit to correct where your perception is wrong, and to encourage the people you care for toward maturity and faithfulness to God’s invitation.
As much as this process may yield better things to say to the people you care for, the ultimate purpose isn’t just better advice; it’s a relationship rooted in the words, motivations, and attitudes of God.