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Praying when you don’t know how: Possession, probation, and other complex prayers

Since 2020, people in prison have been able to ring Prayer Line and leave a confidential prayer request that will be prayed for that day by our Prayer Line team. Many requests are personal or for loved ones. But some are more complex. We asked our volunteer Prayer Line Coordinators how they pray for difficult requests.

How do you deal with requests when you are unsure how to pray?

Joan: Mostly my prayer is ‘Thy will be done.’ There are many occasions when I cannot see an answer, but I know that God can! 

Trish: If I think the information in a prayer request is unclear, I trust that Romans 8:26–27 will be real in my intercession. So, I allow the Spirit within me to speak through me.

Stuart: I just give it up to God saying, ‘Lord I’m not sure how to pray for this request but I know that You know the situation and give it up to You.’

Pru: I pray for God to make a way forward, even if that way is not in the way I imagine.

How do you pray when you don’t know if the request shared is true or not?

Joan: : I am in no position to judge whether the request is true or not. But I feel that if God can be brought into the situation in prayer, then somehow the situation can be changed for the better.

Trish: I rely on God’s compassion and mercy to bring that person to the full knowledge of truth without judging. We can all be deceived by our own desires.

Stuart: Again, I give it over to God and ask that He does what is right in His eyes.

How do you pray for someone who is from a different faith or has different beliefs?

Joan: This is not difficult. We are all God’s children, equally loved, equally valued. I like to think we can all be held in the union of prayer.

Trish: I am thrilled when any person calls for prayer. I believe their heart is crying out to know God, who will see in their request an invitation to dialogue with their creator

Stuart: I do not pray any differently. I simply petition to God and ask for a breakthrough in their lives.

Pru: : I pray for God to make Himself known, and for them to have some assurance of their prayer being heard.

Do you have examples of requests you have found it difficult to pray for?

Joan: : I find it difficult to pray for those who say they are tormented by demons. What is going on here? Where is this coming from? Mostly it’s the Lord’s Prayer that comes to mind when I respond to these requests. And then, I put them in the care of Mary, His Mother and His first disciple of prayer

Trish: : When the request expresses the need for legal intervention, it can highlight the lack of resources in the justice system. This challenges me to intercede not only for the person in their situation but also the whole prison service.
Sometimes we are asked to pray specifically in a way that is unfamiliar to me or in a tradition of prayer I do not use. So I let the Holy Spirit intercede on the person’s behalf, knowing that He will do what is needed.

Pru: It is sometimes difficult to pray for a specific outcome without first acknowledging that this might not be God’s plan. But, at the same time, I believe God encourages us to be direct in our requests. Again, I try to pray for the person and their whole wellbeing as well as the prayer they bring.
In all the requests, I feel we are joining in with the prayer that has already been heard by God when it is being formed, articulated and spoken.

As you can see, there are many different ways to respond to challenging prayer requests. Yet each is based on a desire to support people in prison through prayer.

Find out more about Prayer Line and how you can get involved at

“I can honestly say that I never had as much satisfaction when I worked as I do now as a volunteer.” — Arthur, Chaplaincy Support volunteer

Volunteer with PF

Volunteers are the life-blood of our organisation, and what they do in the lives of those in prison and as they pray, is incredibly valuable. If you are looking to use your time to support some of the most marginalised people in our society to transform their lives, then volunteering could be for you.

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