Don’t Say “I’ll Pray for You” Unless You Mean It

You hear Christian people say it all the time:

  • “I’ll pray for you.”
  • “Thoughts and prayers are with you.”
  • Person: “Please keep me in your prayers.” – Response: “I will.”

If we are people true to our word, then it would seem most Christians are indeed people of prayer. But I wonder sometimes, is that the case? We seem so often to commit to praying for people or needs that we hear of, yet I can’t help but have the feeling that we don’t always follow through. I know this first hand because I am guilty as charged. There has been (sadly) probably countless times I have promised to pray for someone and then never did. And let’s make no mistake, when we say we will pray for someone, we are making a promise. Jesus told us to let our “yes be yes, and no be no”, meaning that we should be people who keep our word.

It really is a bigger deal than we think, when we commit to prayers that never take place. There is so much in the Bible about prayer – about it’s importance and it’s power, especially – that not doing it is a shame. I mean, think about it. If prayer really is taking something before the God of the universe, the Almighty loving Father who can do anything, then shouldn’t we be more committed to making it happen? Shouldn’t we be less flippant about such a serious issue? Not to mention, aren’t we technically lying?

My guess is that we are this way because we don’t see prayer for what it really is. We don’t really think that prayer has life-changing power (or rather, that God has life-changing power he can unleash through prayer). But not only this, saying things like “thoughts and prayers are with you” is more like a social statement than meaningful words. It’s kind of like how we often greet people by saying “How are you?” We tend to use it as a generic greeting, not actually inquiring about the status of someone’s life. We’re just being polite. When we tell people we will pray for them, without really meaning it, we are using empty words and giving empty support, too.

I say all of this because God has been convicting me on this issue. I know it is something I need to work on. In an attempt to do better, one of the things I am trying to do is form a new habit. Rather than telling someone that I will pray for them in passing, I have been trying to stop and pray for them right then and there. Sometimes the circumstances don’t allow for this, but at least in doing so I have actually prayed for the person. I can feel good about doing it and so can the other person. Interestingly, some people actually seem a little surprised that I would pray for them on the spot. It almost seems like they expect my promise of prayer to be mere politeness.

Let’s be people of prayer, people who are true to our word. The next time you find yourself ready to make an empty promise, stop and do the real thing instead. It will make God smile and drive the devil crazy.

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