By Janet Thompson, Crosswalk.com
We’ve all experienced sadness and sympathy for others and compassionately said or posted on social media, “I’ll pray for you,” when we hear of someone’s traumatic or devastating event or loss in their life. Maybe it’s a death, diagnosis, divorce, job loss, illness, surgery, prodigal children . . . Many people are hurting today from the consequences of COVID—not just contracting it, but the forced isolation and separation from family and friends.
Yes, countless things to pray about and we know that we should, but then we struggle with what and when to pray. Even with good intentions when offering to say a sympathy prayer, we don’t always follow through on our offer to pray, which the other person receives as a promise to pray for them. It’s not intentional, in fact, we have good intentions to pray, but then we don’t.
I have a friend who actually writes a sympathy prayer in the comments on social media. Instead of saying she’ll pray, she does it in the moment. Others of you might do the same or in person. My husband is good about doing that and I’ll often walk into the room and hear him praying over the phone for someone who he knows is hurting.
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4 Sympathy Prayers to Pray for Someone Who Is Hurting
In Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, I encourage the reader to personalize Scripture as if God wrote it just for them and we can do the same when we pray for someone who is hurting. We don’t always need to come up with the perfect words to say to someone because God already has.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (Ps. 10:17)
People don’t need us to fix things for them or give ideas they haven’t thought of before. When they’re hurting, they want a shoulder to cry on, an arm around their shoulder, and our company in the darkness of their soul. There might be a time later when we can sit down over a cup of coffee and help them work through details of their situation, but for the moment, they just need to feel God’s closeness and comfort in and through us.
Here are 4 sympathy prayers to help guide you in praying with people for specific situations, or if you’re in this situation, please personalize and pray them for yourself.
1. Sympathy Prayer for When Disaster Hits
Heavenly Father, you promise that “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9). You know the trouble that surrounds anyone experiencing a disaster when everything seems so bleak. Help them trust that you will show a way out of this dark hole when there seems to be no visible way. Guide the many decisions, show the paths to take in moving forward when they just want to sit down in despair and cry.
You knew hard times would come and you will use this disaster to accomplish your perfect will in their life. Give them the courage not to fear the future with you by their side. Help them to remember, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam, let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!” (Ps. 46:1-3 NLT).
Bring those to their side who will help in the areas where they’re so needy by showing your love in tangible ways that express, “My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows” (Hosea 11:8 NLT). Amen.
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2. Sympathy Prayer for the Death of a Loved One
Father, we pray for those suffering the loss of a loved one or someone close to their heart. The hurt runs so deep and grief so all-encompassing, their mourning is palpable. They’re inconsolable: “You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend” (Ps. 88:18 NLT).
While they may celebrate the life of this loved one, who hopefully is now in your loving arms, they’re left here alone wondering how life can go on without this precious person. Only you Lord can bring light back into their life and wipe away the tears. “You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness” (Ps. 18:28 NLT).
You promise that someday mourning will turn to dancing again when we all dance together before your thrown. We know Lord that only you can fill the void left in a broken heart. Only you understand the depth of grief and pain. Only you can help the grieving ever smile again.
Father, please flood their mind and heart with sweet memories when thoughts wander into hopelessness and the pain seems overwhelming, especially on birthdays and holidays.
Remind the grief-stricken that Psalm 116:15 (NLT) assures them “The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.” And you, Lord, care deeply when we’re sad. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle You have recorded each one in your book” (Ps. 56:8 NLT).
Help those with immeasurable sorrow to hold onto the truth that after a little while, we’ll all be united again with you. Until then, hold each one close in your loving arms. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants” (Ps. 116:15). Amen.
3. Sympathy Prayer for Illness
Dear Lord, let our hearts hurt and cringe with those who have received a harsh diagnosis or are in the throes of a painful illness. Remove platitudes and trite comments from our mouths and give us an ear to hear and feel their pain. Father, even if we’ve had a similar illness ourselves, we can’t fully understand their experience. Give us a kind, caring, and loving presence to let them pour out their heart.
Father, you promise in Joshua 1:5 that you will never leave or forsake any of us, so we pray your presence surrounds anyone with an illness whether in the doctor’s office, the hospital, or the sickbed at home. Provide friends or family to hear their cries of pain and soothe their trembling body from fear or illness symptoms.
We pray Lord for all the physicians and medical professionals they’ll encounter in their journey who will be a healing balm for this time of sorrow and pain. We thank you in advance for providing human comfort as well as the Holy Spirit’s constant soothing for physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.
You, Lord, are the great healer; the Great Jehovah Rapha. Only you can ease the pain. Healing comes from your power working through doctors, treatments, and medication, but we pray Lord that you will not give anyone more than they can bear.
Provide the suffering with your constant comfort and peace knowing, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Is. 41:10 NLT). Amen.
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4. Sympathy Prayer for the Loss of a Job or Provision
Lord, it’s devastating not being able to provide financially for family or loves ones. Fear of the unknown of where to turn or what to do next to find a new job is overwhelming. Many find themselves in this position today and it can be paralyzing and depressing.
Father, we pray that doors would open maybe in a different profession. This loss might be a time to pursue new opportunities. Lord, please provide the wisdom, direction, courage, and humbleness to reach out for help in the interim and let others be responsive. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17)
You tell us to be aware of those who are in need, that the body of Christ is benevolent and ready to help our fellow brothers and sisters so please surround those in economic loss with others who have extra to share. “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and he will repay you!” (Prov. 19:17 NLT)
Please guide all who find themselves in this position to seek help even though it’s humbling, you love when we are humble. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” (James 4:10 NLT) Provide employment, replace lost possessions, and help families pull together not be pulled apart.
Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. (Ps. 10:17 NLT)
We all need sympathy prayers sometime in our life, and when we see those prayers answered, God wants us to reach back and help others who are going through something similar. Today we pray for those who are hurting and someday we hope that others will pray for us. It’s God’s way and plan for his people.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Cor. 1:3-4 NLT)
We never know if God is going to heal our hurting here or in our heavenly home but he does promise for all who believe in him as their Lord and Savior that . . .
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev. 21:3-4
What Does the Bible Say about Sympathy?
Maybe we’re not comfortable with the word sympathy because we associate it with pity or only applicable when there’s been a death, but there are a plethora of synonyms for sympathy that we often find used in the Bible such as, comfort, support, encouragement, compassion, kindness, tenderness, tender-heartedness, concern, caring, warmth.
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 1 Peter 3:8 NLT
God wants us to know that our healing process comes from a close relationship with him. He promises that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Ps. 34:18 NLT).
Jesus gives us examples of how to express sympathy.
When Jesus’ good friend Lazarus died his sisters Mary and Martha immediately sent for Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3). When Jesus heard the news that Lazarus died before he arrived, his sympathy for the loss ran deep, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
Sometimes, we so closely empathize with those who are hurting that we cry with them, and that’s okay. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15 to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who mourn.” It lets them know we understand their pain and we care. When people saw Jesus crying, “Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (John 11:36).
In the story of the woman with an issue of blood, we see Jesus’ compassion and sympathy for those in pain. “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering . . . He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:26-29, 34).