We’ve all seen it on social media. A friend is going through a personal struggle and asks for prayer. Tens, if not, hundreds, of their friends chime in with sentiments such as “I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.” They might say they love the person or that they are always there if their friend needs anything.
Those who comment have good intentions. They truly feel bad and want to help in some way. Prayer seems to be the easiest way to extend a helping hand.
After the moment passes and they continue scrolling through their feed, they might forget about the request. Thoughts of the person they had said they’d pray for may later re-enter their mind. They’ll think of the situation or wonder how the person is doing. But, did they ever stop to pray?
I share this not to point fingers, but to admit that I can be so wrapped up in my own life that I can forget about my commitments to pray. During times when I realize my forgetfulness, I feel like a horrible friend. Guilt begins to to cripple me.
So, what can we do about this dilemma?
Do we stop saying we’ll pray for those who are suffering?
I read a blog post a few years back where the author made a list of the things Christians need to stop saying. Of the many items on the list, “I’ll pray for you” was at the top. It bothered me that this was included because it felt like the author was undervaluing prayer. I understand why he wrote about this, but saying we’ll pray for others isn’t the problem; it’s the follow-through that needs to change.
Prayer is valuable (Luke 11:1-13). We should be praying for others as we help carry their burdens (Galatians 6:2).
I will be the first to admit that in our society we tend to throw out “I’ll pray for you” when we don’t know what else to say.
Imagine that you run into a friend at the grocery store and they begin a narrative of all the things that have been going wrong. You are in a rush and are late to your next appointment, so when there’s a lull in the conversation, you mumble something about how you’re sorry for what’s going on and that you’ll be sure to pray for them. You really do mean it. You are sincere in wanting to be there for your friend, but you aren’t able to give the person the care they need in that moment.
As you go through the checkout line, you are already thinking about the next thing you need to do. You had meant to write down the request in your journal, but by the time you get to the car and race off to your next commitment, praying for your friend is the last thing on your mind.
So, how should we handle situations when people need prayer?
It might be awkward to lay hands on your friend and pray right there in the middle of the grocery store. I get it. That might actually make your friend feel worse about their situation. Unwanted attention and life struggles? Not exactly everyone’s cup of tea.
But, how do we pray for them if we can’t pray out loud right now?
Here’s what I’ve started doing and it seems to work well. As soon as I tell someone that I will pray for them, I pray for them silently as I go about what I was doing. That way, if I fail to write down the request, I know that I have made good on my word of saying I will pray. I also try to write it down in some way, whether that be in a note on my phone or on the back of a receipt in my purse. Then, I can go back and pray for that person again.
As Christians, we have an opportunity to band together in prayer, which helps equip us to live out our callings as God’s children.
In 1 Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy saying, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NIV).
My prayer for you (and I’m not just saying I’ll pray for you! I actually prayed this over those who will read this post!) is that not only will you tell others you are praying for them, but you will follow through. By lifting others up in prayer, you are doing God’s will.
Thank you for reading.