These words were spoken to me with blunt frustration by a man after I had just taught a class on being intentional in relationships. Praying for one another was one of several practical exhortations I had made in the class. (There was more to what I said on prayer which I will get to later.) This brother in Christ had been wounded by some bad experiences.
As we talked, I was struck by what I suspect is probably the ugly and embarrassing truth about our prayer lives as Christians: we often take it for granted and become careless and lazy in our prayer habits.
Prayer for one another is an essential habit in our Christian walk. Yet, we can all relate to saying, “I will pray for you”—only to forget. Sometimes we ask for prayer without really thinking about it. It’s an easy (and expected) part of our Christian talk.
How seriously do we really take prayer? Following are three practical ideas to help us be more intentional in our prayer life.
- Write Down Prayer Requests
Studies show that we remember 90% of what we write down. Why not write down what people ask us to pray for? It forces clarity and helps us remember to pray. Along this line, one of the ideas I gave my Sunday school class that morning involved writing prayer requests on 3x5 index cards. Index cards are a cheap and wonderful tool. You can keep them in your pocket or tuck them in your Bible.
Make a card for each person we pray for. Put the person’s name on the top line. Beneath their name, write the date and then the request next to it. When the prayer is no longer needed, write down the date and the answer or resolution. Keep the card to add future prayer requests for that person. As you add cards for each person, you develop a powerful story; a tool for recounting God’s work through your prayers in other’s lives.
- Ask People to Pray For You Rather Than Telling Them to Pray For You
Have you ever had someone just say, “Pray for me” or “You can pray for me about …“. We’ve probably all done it at some point, however, without a “will you please” in front, it can come across a bit presumptuous or even demanding. This is not so much an issue of manners as it is not taking prayer for granted. We all should remember to be mindful of the privilege prayer is. It is a gift to be able to minister to each other through prayer. It is also a comfort to know that we can ask our brothers and sisters to pray for us in times of need which in effect allows them to help us carry our burdens.
Consider that if we ask and the person says, “yes” then there is a greater possibility of them following-through which also means their prayers will likely be more intentional and effective.
Following is not so much a literal suggestion as it is a way to expose our own attitudes and expectations about asking others to pray for us. Would it ever be right to say, “No, I’m sorry but I cannot/will not be able pray for you”? The thought of that seems almost unconscionable. But consider: can we realistically pray for every request that comes our way either directly or indirectly? How many more can we add to a long and probably dusty list? At what point are we just being disingenuous?
Here’s an idea. If we’re having trouble being faithful with our current list, maybe a good alternative when asked to pray is to just stop and pray with the person for the need at that moment rather than to say we will pray later –and never do it.
- Report Back to People Who Have Agreed to Pray for You
For the person who is being intentional about following through on praying for our request it can be disheartening to pray especially over a long period of time and never get an update on what is going on in that situation. When no report is given, it can convey little regard for the time others invest in praying for us. Write down the names of those we ask to pray for us so that we remember to report back.
A simple report is very encouraging to see how God is working through our prayers. It builds our faith. We keep praying for the specific need. It encourages us to pray for others. It builds our unity in Christ. Frankly, it also helps us to be more serious about asking others to pray for us. We realize there is a cost to them: their time that we should seek to honor.
Evaluate Our Prayer Habits
Prayer is a powerful and effective weapon. God instructs us to pray. He promises to hear our prayers and to answer them. It is good therefore to evaluate our prayer habits and to try to correct areas where we have waxed lazy and unintentional.
Whether we’re asking for prayer or agreeing to pray—it is a sacred privilege; a treasured part of our identity as members of God’s family that helps to build our oneness in Christ.