I think I’ve mentioned before that this blog is, at its heart, an assignment for a class. That doesn’t mean that what I’ve written has been half-hearted or done merely out of obligation, though. I’ve really enjoyed sitting down and pouring out my thoughts. This is my last “assigned” blog, but my plan is to continue this site after class. I have relocated the blog to the URL you are currently reading it on. This web address is a little easier to remember (I hope), and the only difference is that my Twitter feed looks a little different. I know that’s probably heartbreaking to most of you, but I hope you can get over it for me. But enough of that. It’s time to move on to the meat of this blog:
Is it enough just to pray for people?
As Christians, we don’t have an easy life. Not if we’re doing it right. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15 that if we’re wrong about Jesus and about Heaven, then “we are of all people most to be pitied.” He’s right. Christianity is all about doing the harder things in this life to improve our next life. And if Jesus isn’t resurrected and an eternity in Heaven isn’t waiting for us after we die, we’re just a bunch of people living a life of eternally delayed gratification.
But there are some perks to being Christians, even in this world. One of them is the line, “I’ll be praying for you.” I sure like saying it. Sometimes, someone comes up to you and just tells you about a really difficult situation in your life, and you really want to make things better, but you have no idea what to say. That’s when, as Christians, it’s so great to have that line in your back pocket. It’s easy to say, and everyone who hears it pretty much has to appreciate it. Even if they don’t believe in God. It’s a pretty big gesture to say, “Hey, I don’t know how to help you, but you know who does? The biggest, most powerful entity in existence. I’ve got connections with him, and I’m gonna see what he can do for you.” Pretty awesome, right?
But how often do we actually remember to pray for that person?
I know I’m too ashamed to try and count up all the times I told someone I would be in prayer for them and totally forgot about them in the next five minutes. I know that sounds heartless, but I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this. Life is busy, and it’s too easy to get caught up in our own little battles when the huge battles of other people aren’t constantly in front of us. Because I know I’ll forget, I’ve tried to build a habit of silently praying for people as soon as I tell them I’ll pray for them. At least that way I don’t make a liar of myself.
But is there an even better way of going about this? I remember hearing a story about a guy who, when someone would tell him about a problem, instead of saying, “Hey, that’s rough. I’ll be praying for you,” he would say, “Hey, I’m a forgetful man, and I don’t want to forget your prayer request. Would you mind if I prayed with you right now?”
What if everybody did this? The idea scares me half to death, mostly because, like other people, I get very insecure praying in front of other people, which is especially stupid in this sort of situation. No one is going to judge your prayer when you take time out of your schedule just to stop whatever it is you’re doing and go to the throne of God with a difficult situation.
And there’s a strange communal power that exists in praying for someone. I got a taste of it last weekend when I participated in a 24-hour prayer vigil. When I came in to do my “shift,” the guy who was in there before me prayed over me – out loud – before he left the room. I had barely ever talked to this guy, but a couple days later I saw him walking by, and I realized I felt this weird connection to him. It was like the two of us had been a part of the same huge bonding experience. It dawned on me that this could only have come from the little thirty-second prayer he prayed over me just a couple days before. It was crazy.
I want to wrap up this blog with a suggestion. The next time someone tells you about a problem they’re facing in their life, don’t just say, “Hey, I’ll be praying for you.” See if you can get them to stop for thirty seconds so you can pray over them. Maybe the two of you won’t have the same inexplicable spiritual experience I had a week ago, but at the very least, you will have avoided using a cheap and empty line.