Recently I spoke with a fellow Christian in the foyer of our church on a Sunday morning. It was his first Sunday back at church after dealing with his father’s sudden death the week prior. Having gone through my own father’s death this past year I wanted to speak with him and offer some encouragement. While speaking I let him know that we had been praying for him since we first heard of his father’s condition. I finished the conversation by saying “I’ll be praying for you.” and had to catch myself at the flippant sound of uttering this phrase. I had, indeed, been praying for him and his family and I would certainly continue to pray for them, but somehow the phrase “I’ll be praying for you” sounded hollow. Why? Have we become so used to it that it sounds frivolous?
Prayer…it is the single best thing we can do as a Christian and yet it is often one of the most overlooked aspects of Christian life. I say that because, as Christians, I believe we have become used to using the phrase “I’ll pray for you” as some sort of glib signal to the end of a conversation. We say we’ll pray for them and then we don’t…or we say we’ll pray for them because we really don’t know what else to say. Have we become so used to this little phrase as to use it so flippantly as it just being a phrase to just say something to fill an awkward void in a serious conversation? Prayer is a wonderful thing, especially intercessory prayer, that is prayer on behalf of another person. Often it is purely out of a selfish heart that we utter this phrase, we know we have no intention of doing so yet we throw the phrase out there because we don’t know what else to say or we’re ready to be done with this conversation. I know because these are my own reasons for abusing this phrase. It seems so trite to say “I’ll pray for you.” to someone who is hurt by the loss of a loved one or is going through a tough time that we almost feel that we dare not say it for the sake of sounding superficial. Yet as I said before prayer is the single best thing we can do as a Christian; it is the single best thing we can do for someone is to pray for them. Truly, as a Christian to let someone know, we’ll do anything less than praying for them would be an insult. Why? Because there is power in prayer, and that power is not in us or our words, but in the One we are praying to. We have little ability in ourselves to ease someone else’s pain and troubles, but God has an infinite ability to ease someone’s pain.
When we say we’re going to be praying for someone we can, first of all, mean it in all sincerity. Secondly, if you are afraid of sounding glib, we can let the other person know exactly what you’ll be praying for them for. For example, let them know you’re praying for peace and comfort for them in their loss, or let them know you’re praying for patience as they endure this trial. Letting the other person know you are praying for them doesn’t need to feel like an empty promise to you or to the person you are praying for.
Over the coming weeks, I want to use this blog to take a deeper look at prayer. I want to examine why we pray, the different methods of prayer and answer any questions you may have along the way. It’s time we make the phrase: “I’m praying for you.” mean something again, so that maybe you can appreciate it a little more when you hear it or the next time you say it you know you really mean it and that it is truly the best thing you can do for someone.