How should you pray for your friends?
As we continuing studying the letter called 3rd John, after greeting his friend Gaius, instead of conveying a blessing from God, as so often happens in the biblical letters, John next describes how he prays for his friend. It’s a great prayer, too, one that you can use a model for your prayers for your loved ones. John says he prays for Gaius to enjoy good health, that all may go well with him, even as his soul is getting along well.
That is an interesting prayer. The good health part? I get it. Very normal. We pray for good health frequently. In fact, my guess is if you tallied up all the prayer requests mentioned in churches in each week the majority would be for health concerns. It’s not wrong to pray for good health. John does it right here. But he has some other concerns too. That means we should avoid getting fixated on praying for good health. When we pray for ourselves and others, we should think holistically, meaning, thinking of the whole person, as John does. John prays for health, but what else does he pray for?
The next prayer request is “that all may go well with you.” I get that one too. It’s a great thing to pray for your loved ones. Whether it is their job, family, finances, relationships, you name it, pray that all will go well with them. Of course in this life, we know that all will not always go well, right?
That’s where John’s third and final prayer request for Gaius is so interesting: “Even as your soul is getting along well.” He prays for Gaius’ soul! We should be praying for our loved ones’ souls. Do you pray for that?
What is this soul, John is talking about? Is he just praying that Gaius would accept Jesus as his savior so his soul would be saved? In other words, is John thinking about eternal destiny? About life after death? Notice that John doesn’t say anything like that, does he? He simply says he wants Gaius’ soul to be getting along well. What does John mean by this?
We sometimes think of our soul as the immaterial part of us. Similar to heart, soul, spirit, mind. But these terms can be confusing. Are they real? Do they refer to different parts of us?
Christian philosopher JP Moreland, in his book Finding Quiet, explains the soul like this: think of a cup of water. The water represents an inanimate human body, like a corpse, with no life in it. Then think of a cup of salt. The salt represents our soul. When the salt is dissolved in the water, it now represents a body that is alive, with a soul. Our soul, Moreland says, is completely intermingled with our body. When we are alive, a human is a body with a soul. It is who we truly are. This is why our evangelical forefathers had a question that they would ask on a regular basis when they got together: “How goes it with your soul?” It is a deeper way to ask “How are you doing?” John is approaching prayer holistically. He doesn’t want his friends to be doing well only in their health, which is a body concern. He wants all elements of who they are to be going well. His is a concern for their spiritual, emotional and bodily health. John is showing us, then, great way for us to think about how we are praying for the people in our lives.
This also relates to John’s idea of a walk, which we’ll look at more in the next post in this series.