Five Prayers for a Cancer Patient

Twenty-four hours before my brother began chemotherapy we sat in the back row of a church 1,732 miles from home. It was my first time in that building, so I picked up a welcome card, filled out the prayer request form on the back, and dropped it in the offering basket when it passed by. As the band on stage began to play we were invited to stand, but as we sang I couldn’t stop thinking about the card. 

  • What do you ask people to pray for when your twenty-eight-year-old brother has been diagnosed with Stage III cancer? 
  • How do you convey all the nuances and needs of the situation when you’re only given a few lines to express them? 
  • How do you offer up to strangers what you’re barely able to say out loud?

The worship team finished the last song on their set list, the pastor prayed, and I wiped away tears I hadn’t realized were falling. As we sat down I opened my notebook. On the top of one page I wrote down the date (April 2) and the passage of Scripture (Mark 11) and a title (Palm Sunday). On the other side I started scribbling prayers for my brother. One cry tied the two pages together: “Hosanna!”

Hosanna in the Highest 

In Mark 11:1–11 Jesus entered Jerusalem, and at his arrival the crowds shouted:

Blessed is he who comes 
in the name of the Lord! 
Blessed is the coming kingdom 
of our father David! 
Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (vv. 9–10) 

Hosanna—it’s a word you hear on Palm Sunday or while reading Passion Week devotionals. For years, when I came across “hosanna” my mind automatically substituted “hallelujah.” I thought of it simply in terms of expressing praise to God but there’s more to the meaning.

Hosanna . . . originally was a prayer addressed to God, meaning “O save us now” (cf. Ps. 118:25a). Later it came to be used as a shout of praise (like “Hallelujah!”) and then as an enthusiastic welcome to pilgrims or to a famous Rabbi. Hosanna in the highest, in highest places, likely means “Save us, O God, who lives in heaven.” Its use here probably reflects a mixture of all these elements due to the nature of the crowd.1

When the people in the crowds shouted hosanna, they were using phrases reserved for the entrance of Israel’s Messiah. Many wanted salvation and deliverance from the oppression they were facing—but they wanted it on their own terms. They wanted to be saved from their circumstances far more than they wanted the suffering Savior. 

I thought about that last week as my brother and I were driving to chemo. We had gotten into the routine of praying together on the way to the hospital. One morning we called our mom to check in with her, and my brother told her clearly how he wanted people to pray for his treatment. 

“Pray,” he said, “that I’ll want Jesus more than I want to be healed from the cancer.”

Five Prayers for the Chemo Patient 

My brother is still in the beginning phases of chemotherapy and little feels more personal right now than sharing the ways we’re praying and praising God in the midst of his treatment. So as you read the following prayer points, consider making them personal to you as well. Fill in the blanks with the name of someone you know—a family member, friend, or member of your church. Who is undergoing chemotherapy and in need of your prayers today?

1. Lord, remind ______ that You reign and that everything is Yours.

Who is like You? “Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, you are God” (Psalm 90:2). You are before all things, and You hold all things together—even us (Col. 1:17).

You have no rival.” Cancer is not a threat to You. It’s not even a competition. You have authority over every cell in ______’s body, even the ones that have gone wayward. Nothing could ever happen to him that You have not allowed. 

Help ______ to trust that You have full control of all things—every test, every treatment, and every side effect that keeps him from sleeping. You are high above all symptoms and statistics. You are more than able to fully heal his body, whether it’s through a miracle, his chemo treatments, or some other means. In Your power, You are able to cure him, to end his suffering, and to sustain him every step of the way. We ask, Lord, that You will. 

You know every possible outcome of this. We don’t know what is best for him, but You do. You may choose to show Your power by taking away his cancer, but You may also show Your strength by working through it. Whatever You do, Lord, prove to ______ what it means that Your grace is sufficient. “May Your power be perfected in his weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7–9).

2. Lord, help ______ surrender all to You.

When You, Jesus, entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, people in the crowds grabbed their cloaks and threw them at Your feet. They took what they had—the worn out, ordinary cloaks they depended on for warmth—and spread them out before You. They offered up what they had in worship to the King (Mark 11:8).

Stir______’s heart to honor You as King and to lay down all that he has at Your feet. May he give You everything he has—all that he depends on daily, his dreams for the future, and his hope for healing. May he be able to entrust every aspect of his health to You, knowing You can be trusted to carry it. 

3. Lord, may Your peace guard ______’s heart and mind (Phil. 4:7). 

Only You are able to provide ______ with what he needs to get through these rounds of chemo. Fill him with peace that doesn’t panic, comfort for every wave of grief, faith that doesn’t fear the future, and purpose as he waits for You. Remove any shame that he feels associated with this diagnosis. May he be more aware than ever that his identity is not in any aspect of his cancer journey but in Christ alone. 

May it be clear that You are his God. You are with him, and You have promised to never leave him (Heb. 13:5). May he be aware of Your presence in the treatment center—from the first drop of fluid in his IV until the day he finally rings the remission bell. May it be obvious to every nurse and doctor and patient he is around the difference it makes that he belongs to You. 

4. Lord, may Your people be a blessing to ______ during this time.

He needs You—daily, hourly, and moment by moment. He also needs Your people to surround him, provide him with practical support, and remind him of Your faithfulness. He was never meant to do this alone, and You’ve provided the church, the Body of Christ, especially for times like this. 

May the people of God show up and reflect the love of Jesus. Mobilize them to be a help and deep encouragement to him, and in response may he humbly accept their assistance and see each card, meal, and act of service as a gracious gift from You

5. Lord, fix ______’s eyes on the finish line. 

It feels like there are a hundred reasons to fear what’s coming in the next few weeks, but You have said not to be worried about tomorrow. Give ______ all he needs to get through this day, and allow him to rest knowing You will be with Him to handle what’s to come. 

Help him live with eternity in mind. May brothers and sisters in the faith remind him that “heaven works backwards,” and that heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”2

Help him to live with the ultimate finish line in mind: the day when he will not just be healed but when he’ll have You, Jesus. You are who he wants most. As he waits to be in Your presence may He long with fresh wonder for the moment every enemy—and every disease—will be put under Your feet (1 Cor. 15:25). The day when every tear will be wiped away. “Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more” (Rev. 21:3–5).

On that day it will be said,
“Look, this is our God;
we have waited for him, and he has saved us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him.” —Isaiah 25:9

An Updated Prayer Request Card

On Easter Sunday, twenty-four hours after my brother finished his first week of chemo, my family streamed an online church service from our hotel room. An elder walked on stage and shared announcements, and behind him bright flowers filled the background.

The floral arrangements reminded me of the branches my brother and I had been handed the week before. Those branches were long gone—we’d thrown them away when we saw the edges begin to brown—but the passage from Palm Sunday still felt fresh in my mind: 

Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord! 
Blessed is the coming kingdom
of our father David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven! —Mark 11:9–10

Blessed is He who came. Blessed is He who will come again

If we had been in the church building on resurrection Sunday, if I’d been handed another paper prayer card to fill out, I knew what my brother would have whispered if I had asked him what request he wanted me to write down: “Pray that I’ll want Jesus more than I want to be healed from the cancer.” 

Hosanna! God, save him. Hallelujah—You already have. 

Are you or a family member facing a cancer diagnosis or another kind of difficult health diagnosis? Revive Our Hearts is committed to seeking the Lord with you in the hard circumstances you’re experiencing today. Head to to submit your prayer request—health related or otherwise—online. Your specific needs will be carefully and confidentially distributed to our staff and team of prayer partners who are committed to praying for you.

1 John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 156.

2 C. S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 503

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's … read more …

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