Those are marvelous words! Indeed, it is a marvelous privilege to be able to bear one another’s burdens, and to bring them, in Jesus’ name, right into the very throne room of heaven to be presented before the King’s feet! What a joy and an honor it is to intercede for one another in prayer!
But how many times do we tell someone, ‘I’ll be praying for you’ … and then find ourselves at home later that evening, thinking: ‘Now who was it I said I’d be praying for? And what did they ask me to pray about?’ It happens to me more often than I’d care to admit! Perhaps even more often than that, we promise to ‘be praying’ for someone … and never even remember that we promised! In fact, if we are not careful, the words ‘I’ll be praying for you’ can almost become as wrote and empty as ‘how are you doing?’. We say those words to people all the time, never expecting that they might actually care to tell us; and probably not really wanting to know! So, nowadays, ‘how are you doing?’ basically just means ‘hello’ in our modern vernacular. And I say that it is possible that, for some of us, ‘I’ll be praying for you’ has suffered similar erosion of meaning.
Do the words ‘I’ll be praying for you’ simply mean: ‘Boy, that’s a tight spot you’re in, and I feel for you?’ … or do they actually mean ‘I’ll be praying for you’? Perhaps this sounds over-simple, but it seems to me that, if I say ‘I’ll be praying for you,’ that ought to mean that I’ll actually be praying for you! As Christians, our ‘yes’ must be ‘yes’, and our ‘no’, ‘no’! More than that, people need us to actually pray for them, not just empathize! For, as comforting (and necessary!) as our listening ear may be to a friend in need, listening human ears cannot solve their problems. Only God can do that! And so we must be people of prayer!
And yet it is hard, many times, to remember to whom we’ve promised prayer! I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with this. So what can we do so that we might better be men and women of our word, and men and women of prayer? A few helpful hints …
1. Don’t promise prayer unless you really intend to do it. Best would be to promise and to pray! But if you’re not sure you’ll be serious about praying for such-and-such a request, or you don’t think you’ll remember, then just don’t promise. Better to pray without having promised than to promise and yet never pray!
2. Pray right now! The best way I know to avoid forgetfulness in prayer is, when someone passes along a prayer request, to stop and pray for them right then and there. This can be helpful in three ways. First, you won’t forget if you do it now! Second, the person you’re praying for is present to agree with you in prayer. Third, there is just something about hearing someone praying for you out loud that is really encouraging. So, instead of saying: ‘I’ll be praying for you,’ let’s learn to say: ‘Let’s just stop and pray right now!’
3. Write it down. Sometimes (though not usually) a prayer request may come in a hurried situation in which you cannot stop and ‘pray right now.’ In such cases, make yourself a note so you can come back to it later. I find the back of my hand to be a good place! I’ve never lost such a note yet! And many times I’ve been a better friend simply because I’ve written something down … and thus actually remembered!
At the end of the day, though – how and whenever you do it – the bottom line is simply: PRAY! God can do in one moment more than any of us can do with a whole lifetime of helping others. So pray for your co-workers, your family, your church family, your neighbors, your missionaries, and the homeless man you meet on the street – even when they don’t ask you to do so! But pray for them, especially, when you have promised ‘I’ll be praying for you.’