“I’ll be praying for you.” I said.
She suddenly grabbed my arm with a fierce grip. “I know you will,” she replied, “A lot of people say they’ll pray, but I actually know you will.”
Something about that moment changed me. Something about the intensity in her grip and voice that made me realize, our friends, our family, acquaintances, all sorts of people desperately need our prayers– but most of the time we use that response– I’ll pray for you– as a way to get out of the conversation. At best, we have good intentions, but rarely follow through.
The truth is I used to hate it when people asked for prayer.
I didn’t want to pray for them or their need. I guess if someone asked for prayer, I felt an obligation to do it. My friend was right, I never agreed to pray for someone unless I meant it, but the irony is, I typically avoided telling someone I’d pray for them.
I just didn’t want to. I’m sure part of that was rooted in selfishness and part of it was I just didn’t really like praying that much.
Prayer was a chore. It was boring.
So if I was actually going to spend time in prayer, I didn’t want to have a laundry list of requests for other people that I thought were frivolous.
Yet somewhere along the line, my attitude about prayer and praying for others began to change.
Yesterday morning, I got a text from two friends who asked for prayer. I spent the car ride into work praying for one of them and the car ride home praying for the other. My heart was overflowing with joy. I was so happy to know how to be specifically praying for them and found myself more and more excited as I continued to prayed for them.
It is such an immense privilege to get to pray for my friends and family.
Maybe that sounds lame or super (and annoying) Christian, but I’m totally serious. I love–and I mean jump up and down, get super excited when I get to pray for other people– love praying for others.
So maybe you hate praying (for others) too, but you know your attitude should change.
1. Stop lying.
Don’t tell your friend “you’ll pray for her” if you’re not going to do it. Just cut it out. Say, “I’m sorry to hear that” or “Wow, that must be really hard” or basically say anything but I’ll pray for you. If you’re not going to pray for your friend, don’t insult her by lying to her as well. And yes, you are not consoling, you are lying.
2. Pray for an attitude change.
Ask God to change your heart about prayer and ask God to give you compassion for others. Ask him to help you see other people like He sees them. There is a song lyric that says, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours”. I prayed that lyric for years. I want my heart to be moved like God’s is moved.
3. Believe that prayer does something.
You have to believe this. If you don’t, prayer is useless. I will never forget the day I came across this verse in the Bible. If you know anything about the Apostle Paul, he was constantly persecuted for his Christian beliefs and several times thrown into prison. During one of his imprisonments, he writes to the Christians in Phillippi saying,
I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance… (Philippians 1:19)
Paul believed in the power of other people praying for him. He could have just said, “I know that God will help me out of this mess.” but he said, “I know that THROUGH YOUR PRAYERS and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ…”
Paul believed that the prayers of others would deliver him from jail. If that doesn’t get you fired up about the influence you can have by praying for other people, I don’t know what will.
4. Get a short list together and do it.
Put a short list together of specific pray requests for other people and commit to praying over them every day. I started in the car and to this day, it’s still one of my favorite times to pray. I’ve got a 15-minute commute each way to work, I turn of the radio and I talk (out loud) to God. Why out loud? It keeps my focused. I find if I pray in my head, my thoughts begin to turn to other things without realizing it.
5. Expect answers.
Kind of like #3, if you don’t go into prayer believing God hears you and that He answers you, it’s pointless. Pray with boldness knowing you are going before the King of Kings and asking Him to do something.
This whole concept still floors me. I have an amazing boss whom I respect and have a great relationship with. Yet even with him, I have to be strategic when asking for things. I can’t barge into his office every hour with another request. I have to read his mood and know when it’s a good time or bad time before asking. Even if the best supervisor-employee relationship, you have to be strategic when asking for things.
And yet, you and I can approach the throne of the most powerful being and ask for anything, anytime. The Sovereign God, Creator of All Things, He Who Sifts Kings Hearts Like Channels of Water, THAT GUY– you and I have access to day and night.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
In every situation. By prayer and petition. With thanksgiving. Present your requests.
All your requests. Not ones you think are more important than others. Not ones you need to prioritize. All of them. He wants all of them.
Perhaps my favorite thing about praying for others, is that it deepens my faith. When I pray for others, it’s easier for me to expect God to answer and it’s easier for me to see His work in their lives. Hebrews 4:6 says,
“Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence…”
We have to pray with confidence and expectation of God to move and answer our prayers.
Start simple. If you dread prayer, start by asking God to change your heart and see what He does. Stormie Omartian says God’s favorite prayer is “Lord, change me!” He wants you to converse with Him and if my story is any example, He will totally change your heart and make it your delight to pray for others.