An Arabic Christian woman once shared some challenges and concerns she was facing. An American couple, listening to her, said, "We'll pray for you."
The woman replied, "No, you won't! Americans are quick to promise others that they'll pray for them, but then they walk away and never follow through!"
The couple, stunned by the women's response, then asked, "How do you know?"
"Because I never see a change in my life or circumstances. There would be a significant difference if they actually prayed!"
This lady had faith in God to change things by the power of prayer. This should challenge us to consider, or reconsider how we make promises; how we view prayer, its effectiveness, and the importance to faithfully pray.
Jesus spoke specifically about how we use words and promises (oaths):
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. - Matthew 5:33-37
James agrees: Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned. - James 5:12
As Christians, we mean well when we promise others that we'll pray for them. But so often, as we busy ourselves with tasks, goals, service, objectives, missions, and more, we can quickly lose sight of promises made to others. Distractions happen to everyone. Our promises can be put on a back burner, but sometimes they're left there and are lost. We can do much better!
We damage our Christian testimony, reduce God's name and glory, and can even damage another person's faith or trust in God when we fail to follow through when we promise to pray!
Is there a way to avoid turning our promise into something that is neither beneficial to the person promised prayer or we, ourselves, who promised to pray?
Absolutely! Invest prayer into that person, circumstance, or matter right that instant! What better time to pray than on site in that moment!?
If you find yourself in a grocery checkout line, or another site where there's a lot of hustle and bustle all around, ask the person requesting prayer (or the person you offered to pray for) if you could step aside with them to somewhere nearby that's a bit out of the way so you can pray together. It's highly unlikely that they'll decline your offer to pray right there and then (unless you're out in the open in a country that's closed or makes it difficult for Christians practicing their faith in public. Even then, there are ways to discreetly pray with one another).
What if I don't know what to pray for in that moment?
Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." - John 14:12-18
God is faithful. As God is perfectly faithful, so is Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Silently ask the Lord to give you biblical insight; His insight, in how to pray for that person in the moment. It's likely the person/people requesting prayer shared a matter concerning them- so you likely already have a matter to pray about. You can begin praying by praising God for one or more of His attributes. Then as He quiets your heart (if it's stirred or worked up), you can pray for the matter they requested. As you're praying, if the Lord downloads to your mind something else to pray for in that time (joy, peace, patience, self-control, other fruits of the Spirit, increased knowledge, faith, trust, understanding, relationship, etc. with God), pray it silently or aloud as the Spirit prompts you to do so. Note: praying aloud, in a Christ-centered, non-condemning fashion, can be an avenue in which God brings significant hope, peace, or joy to a troubled heart! As the other person/people hear you pray, God may do a work in their hearts they (or you) hadn't anticipated- bringing increased glory to His name and Himself! Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Don't try to pray only from your own thoughts or imaginings.
What if I disagree with how they've asked me to pray?
This seldom happens, but again, ask God for wisdom in how to pray in that moment. It's okay to take a few moments to pray silently before you begin speaking in prayer. In that time, God may quiet your heart, give you His insight in how He'd have you pray as well as honor the person/people requesting prayer, etc. Again, begin praying aloud by praising God for who He is. Center the focus on God. He matters most. The matter, as well as the people you're praying for/with, are His. Pray biblically.
Changing Our Culture by Praying On Site
Would you be encouraged if someone offered to pray for you, then followed through in prayer that moment while you were at the park, running errands, in the break room at work, at the store, in a parking lot, in your home, or somewhere else where prayer is seldom if ever practiced? I imagine you would be encouraged!
While we don't pray publicly to be seen by others, imagine what God might begin doing in the hearts of other Christians, or even non-Christians, if personal prayer became more prominent in public places.
1. He would bring increasing encouragement to those sharing and receiving prayer in those moments. An increase in faith in Jesus is good for all!
2. Christians who are afraid to speak or act out their faith in public may begin stepping out in faith to listen to others, pray, and share their faith in Jesus Christ.
3. God, who can and does immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) would be more openly sought after, praised, and glorified in public- as well as in private. Our society and world would benefit greatly from this!
Why should we hold back and not pray? Let's get out of our own way (setting aside fear and vain imaginings) and seek Him to do immeasurably more- for His glory! He will do so as we follow through and pray!
The time of being fearful of what others might think or say has passed! Let's press through the fear, by the Lord's strength- and not our own; pursue the Lord, and His best, for those around us.
How will you follow through in prayer today or this week?
Lord, we love you and we desire for you to be known and loved by all we come in contact with. Yet, we confess, that we often talk or imagine a good game but fail to follow through. In our flesh and good intentions we fall woefully short. We turn our eyes to you, Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:2) to increase in us those things that will bring You the greatest glory. Have your way, fully, in us, then through us.
Lord, give us opportunities to seek you and practice praying with others around us; then help us follow through, learn, grow, and glorify You as we do so in your strength!
Quicken our hearts to be in constant communication with you; listening as well as speaking. Reveal to us anything in our hearts that is hindering you from accomplishing your works, and the even greater works that Jesus spoke about in John 14. As we pray for you to bring Revival, begin in me; in us first. Do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).
We continue exalting you in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. In Jesus' name...