Awkward silence

one of the reasons I’m so interested in RZIM is to understand how to respond to the questioner and not just the question and also how to give an adequate response in a given situation. Once again, I was caught off guard and didn’t know how to respond when a young married couple expecting a baby explained how the baby would not live due to health issues although they had to carry this pregnancy to full term - and it wasn’t the first time it had happened to them. They were so brave and hadn’t lost faith but I didn’t really know how to respond and after a brief silence, I promised to pray for them. This seems so inadequate - what to do? How do I offer any kind of hope without it sounding like - just words.


Hello, @CathE!
We offer our warmest welcome to you here Connect, and we’re glad that you’ve jumped right in with a discussion question. :slight_smile:

You bring up a very good question. I have often found myself without words for someone in a very painful situation, usually because I feel strongly that any sort of trite words I could offer would just make matters ‘worse’. I tend to be a person who errs by saying too little than too much!

Oftentimes though, I don’t think there is much that we can (or even should) say in situations like that. Unsolicited words of hope can often backfire. I am currently training to become a counsellor, and if there’s one thing our lecturers are challenging us on, it’s our discomfort with other people’s suffering. That is, they challenge our need/compulsion to speak words of hope to those who are suffering…to move past the night of mourning and weeping and move quickly into the light of day, so to speak. They challenge us to learn what it means to ‘sit with’ people when they are in pain.

I don’t have a tried-and-tested process when I find myself in these situations, but what I always try to do is express my broken-heartedness to them about the situation and ask them how they are doing in the midst of it…ask them if there are specific prayers that I can be praying. I try to (silently) communicate that I am not uncomfortable engaging with their situation if they wish to speak about it. But, in general, I try to let them speak of hope or either wait for them to ask for the words. I find that keeps me from moralising the situation, and helps acknowledge it for what it is in the moment.


Hi @CathE, I’m glad you’re here and so glad that you have a heart for those around you!

I understand the feeling of inadequacy; I feel it a lot. Sometimes we’re in a situation and have no idea what to do, and that’s ok.

One thing I’ve learned that’s been helpful is to ask to pray for them right there. I know that sounds even scarier, but if you’re asking they have a choice. So, if they don’t want you to pray, don’t. I think you’ll be surprised how many people end up saying yes.

Imagine this scenario: “Can I pray for you?” “Yes.” Now what? Ask them this, “What can I specifically pray about for you?” and then really listen. After he or she tells you what he or she wants prayer for, summarize it back to them, “Ok, you want me to pray for ____, is that right?” It’s really important that you receive his or her approval before beginning to pray because the goal of your prayer is for them to feel loved by God. If you misheard them, it not likely that they’ll feel loved by you or God so make sure you clarify. Then pray over their request and listen for God to speak. That’s it, just pray whatever is on your heart and make them feel more loved by the end of the prayer.

You may find praying for people, especially people that you regularly interact with, will open doors to more conversation. It could also lead to some rejection, but as you know, seeing one person start to follow Jesus makes it all worth it.

I hope you find this as an encouragement.


Dear Bo thanks for this. I will certainly bear this in mind. It also exposed to me exactly how i struggle in my faith too because if I had to pray in this particular situation, I would be at a loss for how and what exactly to pray for. For the baby’s safe delivery? For the parents to feel Jesus peace and compassion? For the doctors and nurses involved? for a miracle? It’s not that I don’t trust God - I do and I trust that his ways are higher and he sees the whole picture whereas i can only see snippets of it (if at all). But in the end pain is part of our world so for what exactly should I pray?
So this is where I’m at - also for a dear friend whose 2 sons are both born with muscular dystrophy disease and will eventually end up in a wheelchair and short lifespan according to their doctors. I get that God is in our pain and suffering too but how do I help an unbeliever living the nightmare to understand or receive God’s amazing love.
This is also why I joined the forum because I realize that being a Christian means that there is so much to learn.
Oh by the way, thanks so much for taking the time to reply to my question :blush:


Dear Kathleen
thank tou so much for your reply. It is incredibly helpful and I will indeed at least try to « sit with » the person. Please also look Bo’s reply and my comment to Bo’s kind reply.
This is very delicate so all the advice received from yourself and Bo helps immensely.
God bless :blush:


Hi @CathE, thank you for bringing this discussion to the forum. It is so important. I cannot imagine the pain this young couple is going through. I am reminded of Job’s friends and how they responded to him. At first, they did right by “sitting in silence.” Then they started talking. As they spoke, their many words brought all kinds of judgement and condemnation into the situation. This was counterproductive and only frustrated Job. So don’t feel bad about the silence. In painful situations like these, outside of offering our sincerest sympathies and prayer, our silence is good. Allowing people to express their shock and pain and the “sitting beside them” is what they will remember. @KMac always has such insight into these situations and I also like the advice @boabbott gave. I will have to remember that.


Thanks so much Sig. :pray:t5::blush:


@CathE, you nailed the hardest and scariest part - what do I pray for? Each situation is different and that’s why we ask them what they want. Jesus did this. In Mark 10:51, he asked the blind man what he wanted and the blind man said, ‘I want to see!’ and Jesus gave him sight. Now, I’m not saying you and I will walk around consistently doing miracles (although they do happen), what I’m saying we’re going to ask them what they want prayer for, and we’re going to ask God for that.

While listening to their request, I would silently pray “God what do you want for them? How and what should I pray for?” You may get a sense that God wants you to pray for something additional to their request and sometimes you won’t. Whatever the case may be, I would pray for what you’ve heard (from both them and God) and pray so that they feel loved when you say “Amen.”

In the situation with the young couple, ask for what they want. Let’s say they want to be parents, so we’re going to ask that they get to be parents. In fact, here’s my prayer for them: “Lord, we know that you are in charge of all things so we ask that the Holy Spirit would rest on us with peace because your Word says that your peace and knowledge are way beyond anything we can conceive. {Pause and wait for the Holy Spirit’s peace} My brother and sister here desperately want to be parents so I’m asking that you would make that happen. We know the doctors say it isn’t likely for this child to make it outside the womb but we know that you can change that so we ask that you would. Would your presence and power be in my sister’s womb and with the child? Father, we also know you sometimes say No. We ask that this wouldn’t be the case, but if it is we ask for you would be in the middle of it and make them parents soon. Again, Holy Spirit, come and move in the middle of this so that we can tangibly see what you’re doing. Amen.”


Dear Bo
I hope you’re having a great day :slightly_smiling_face:
Thank you so much because your reply really provides me with practical help as well as insight.
Thank you for the prayer too.
Have a great weekend.