Sunday morning my Autistic son sat the entire service with me in the auditorium (a goal for this week), and he only asked to get up 4,000 times. As I looked around I imagined our auditorium filled with more Special Needs families and remembered some of my more difficult Sundays roaming halls trying not to be noticed (re-lived Sunday evening just to keep my head on straight!).
It gathered in me a desire to pray for these families who might come, and I am sharing my prayerful thoughts here in case you too would like to pray for those in your church and/or community who do not know Jesus or do not regularly attend a local church.
Praying for S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Needs Families in the Church.
S – Spiritual Sensitivity – Pray hearts will be extra sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. So many, constant, daily distractions often make Special Needs Families feel guilty for their limited time in the Word, inconsistent involvement in church activities, or the tiredness written all over their face when they come to church services.
P – Provision – Every family has needs (often undetected!). For Special Needs Families these can be financial (bills, medical, single income), personal (struggles, discipline, family dynamics), mental (depression, anxiety), spiritual (guilt, grief, doubt), or even a need for time (rest, quiet, fun). Pray for all these provisions and others that come to mind.
E – Encouragement – Pray about how you can speak life, to remind them of the power of Jesus in every moment and for anything they are specifically facing in life. You may feel like as a believer they should know, but we all need to hear it spoken into our heart as well as our ears. Remember how important words can be to someone who has a non-verbal or a limited-verbal child.
C – Church – I truly believe Special Needs Families NEED the church, and the church NEEDS these families as well! Pray these families will find friends and followers of Jesus with whom they feel a belonging. Pray they will open themselves to help, friendship, and opportunities to serve others.
I – Investment – Every parent wants to see their child grow. God can work miracles of healing, and He can also work daily miracles of grace helping people improve on skills needed for a successful life. Invest with these parents by praying their child will grow, mature, reach milestones, and know Jesus!
A – Advocacy/Acceptance – Churches are full of many kinds of Christians all saved the same way! Some seem pretty put-together most of the time. Others pull it together for at least 3 hours on a Sunday. Still there are those who are more like my family – squarely in the “We’re doing the best we can” category! We need to be aware of the reality that families who love Jesus sometimes struggle so we can meet them with compassion and smiles, rather than judgment or frustration.
L – Love – Families need reminding of God’s faithful love to them through prayer, Bible Study, and faithful church ministry. The church heavily impacts whether God’s love is received in a positive way or demonstrated in an isolating way.
Praying for Special N.E.E.D.S. Families who do not know Jesus
N – Neighbor – Pray Special Needs Families will have a neighbor who will advocate for them and continue to reach out to them again and again through the local church. Remember Jesus answers the question of “Who is our neighbor?” by explaining the Good Samaritan was the out-of-towner/passer-by who served the hurting one, the one who could not help himself. You may be that neighbor!
E – Evangelism – Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with Special Needs Families who may need to hear it as a reminder or for the first time ever. Be careful not to assume someone knows the gospel just because you do!
E – Encouragement – (Yes, on both lists, because we ALL need encouragement.) Pray about how you can speak life in order to help them identify what they cannot see – the power of Jesus drawing them to Himself. Use your words to point them to Jesus, because only in Him is the peace they seek!
D – Discipleship – We need to always be asking the question, “How can I bring this person/family one step closer to Jesus?” Pray about how you might facilitate discipleship through the ministry of the church (small group, Sunday school, in home Bible Study, Buddy Ministry)? Ask families what they need in order to grow closer to Jesus and gather resources and help for them. (Do not merely hand off resources – follow up!)
S – Stress – To connect to a special needs family in one easy step ask, “What is so stressful right now that I can pray with you about?” There is ALWAYS something stressful going on in the lives of a Special Needs Family – and it is not always what you expect! Ask, and then pray.
Use this FREE guide for scripture references to help you pray for Special Needs Families!
Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.