“Will you pray for me?” or its slightly more urgent cousin “Please pray!” are phrases that should flow freely throughout a church family. It is a high privilege of God’s sons and daughters to bear one another’s burdens and remember each other in our prayers.
But what happens after a prayer request is born? All too often, we are very bad mothers to these nursing children, leaving them to fend for themselves for long stretches or even forgetting them altogether until we see the person we’ve promised to pray for, or when we encounter a faithful prayer request babysitter who has been watching over our request for months.
Remember to Care for Your Prayers
Loving one another means remembering to pray. It means keeping our word. It means not taking it lightly when a brother or sister offers to pray for you. A prayer request is a sacred trust, a holy obligation.
So how can we take better care of our prayers?
First, when asking for prayer, have people pray for your real requests. Don’t invent a prayer request out of thin air and don’t stall until you can think of something that sounds holy. Don’t give a secondhand prayer request for what your friend or your cousin needs. Ask for prayer for what you really need, for what’s really going on in your life.
Second, follow up. Don’t email the church asking for prayer, and then leave that prayer sitting in the bulletin until the Second Coming. Remember who you’ve asked to pray for you and let them know when their prayers have been answered. Sometimes it’s as simple as jotting it down in a notebook or on your calendar: “Big exam on Friday: asked X,Y, and Z to pray.” “Meeting with A to restore our relationship; asked B for prayer. Call her when the meeting is over!”
When you agree to pray for someone, do it immediately, before you hang up or walk away. Then, make a plan to continue in prayer. You’ve committed to pray, but unless you plan, you will likely forget. The Holy Spirit helps even the least of the prayers you pray to reach heaven, but God never hears the eloquent prayers that you only intend to pray. It might seem mechanical or forced at first, but make a prayer list, and don’t be afraid to use a notebook or have your phone remind you. Apps like Prayermate can be a great tool to turn well-meant promises into powerful prayers.
And here, too, follow up. If you are praying for a one-time event, get in touch with the person you’re praying for after that event is over. If you are praying for something long-term, check in at reasonable intervals to see how God is working on that request. Let your attitude be like the Prophet Samuel’s: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” (1 Sam. 12:23).
Love in Action
Prayer is not a special Christian hobby that we pursue when we have time. Prayer is Christian love in action. Frivolously asking for prayer is taking the Lord’s name in vain. Frivolously agreeing to pray is bearing false witness. Careless prayer dishonors God and defrauds our brothers and sisters, but fervent, effectual, unceasing, prayer glorifies God and builds up the body of Christ.