Recently, someone whom I’ve not had any contact with for a very long time wrote me an email and ended it with these words:
“I hope you are also doing well and please know that you continue to be in my prayers.”
I don’t have adequate language to describe how such words effect me. But whenever I’m aware that a believer is praying for me, I’m deeply moved. And I’m deeply thankful.
Perhaps some of you who are in ministry can relate to this, but I am keenly aware when God works in and through me in ways that exceed my abilities and giftings. I attribute this to His grace and to the prayers of God’s people for me.
In Revise Us Again, I address the problem of Christianeze. The phrase, “I’m praying for you” or “I’ll pray for you” sometimes falls into that category for some believers. Meaning, many Christians say it all the time to people, but often don’t carry it out. It’s the right thing to say. It’s part of the culture of being a Christian.
Those who know me well are aware of two things on this score:
1. I rarely ask others to pray for me. The reason is simple. I believe the prayer ministry of the church is an incredibly powerful thing. Think of a country that goes to war and chooses to unleash a nuclear bomb.
To my mind, the corporate prayer of the body of Christ is like a nuclear bomb unleashed against the kingdom of darkness. Thus I only request it when it’s a hugely important issue and I feel that my own prayers aren’t sufficient for the task.
To the contrary, as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve watched prayer requests reduced to the trivial and insignificant. And so in many respects, it’s been cheapened and has lost its power. My “reserve” when it comes to requesting prayers for myself is my personal conviction against this tendency. At the same time, I’m thrilled when someone prays for me. And I’m thankful as I believe God works through the prayers of His people on my behalf.
2. If I tell someone “I’m praying for you,” this is huge. I don’t pray for everyone I know. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. But my prayer time is mostly fellowship. Intercession happens when God lays someone on my heart strongly or if they specifically ask me to pray for them. So when I intercede for someone (or for a church) without being asked to, it means that I’m deeply concerned for them.
I realize that the above is not “Christianly correct.” Many evangelical Christians embrace the notion that we are supposed to pray for every person we know all of the time. And we are to constantly ask people to pray for us. In some quarters this is explicitly taught. In others it’s just modeled and is part of the evangelical Christian culture.
I’m sorry, but I see neither in the New Testament. And I’ve observed that when Christians glibly tell others, “I’m praying for you” or “I’ll pray for you,” they often aren’t and don’t.
To those of you who are praying for me . . . I am profoundly thankful.