One of the most common lies Christians tell is, “I will pray for you”. They, at least when I talk about myself, forget as soon as the promise is made. The cares and responsibilities of life very soon consume them and they fail to fulfil their usually well-intentioned promise.
Of course, to some, the promise to pray is nothing more than just a cliché to which they have no intention to fulfil.
Have you been reminded of a promise to intercede for someone when they return to you to testify of how the Lord has answered their prayer? They are grateful to you for a gap you promised to fill that unknown to them, you never filled. It happens to me every once in a while and this is what has challenged me to write this post for someone like me out there. Usually in such circumstances, I sheepishly smile and begrudgingly accept undue gratitude. Am I not being a Jacob ‘stealing’ a blessing meant for Esau? Of course, stealing is too harsh a term, but in the heart of hearts, I would know I am taking credit for a testimony in which I have no hand. I wish I could be brave enough to admit to it that I did not go beyond promising.
Maybe the reason we don’t pray other than forgetting is that we have no time. But failing to pray for others may as well mean we are having a prayer-less life ourselves. God answers sincere prayer and that is why He asks us to have faith like that of a child. The length of the prayer is immaterial provided our hearts are right with God. If in interceding for those that we have promised to intercede for, we can only afford a quick line as we go on with our ‘busy’ lives, I think that would be absolutely fine. However, many of us can afford to take a greater role in intercession by investing as much time as the Holy Spirit leads us to. The bible says that we know not what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26-27). This means sometimes we may not even verbalize our prayers but still pray. In the same passage, the bible says the Father who knows our hearts as well knows what the Holy Spirit is saying as He intercedes for us in harmony with God’s will so if we let the Holy Spirit pray we are certain He will pray according to the will of God.
Don’t we miss an opportunity to be used of God as He works in others’ lives? When the bible says in Acts that it is more to give than receive, I think giving of our time to pray for others’ specific needs is one way of giving. By being reluctant to use this great privilege we are not only denying ourselves but even those that ask us to stand with them, a privilege to be blessed.
Should we then feel guilty and bad about ourselves for letting ourselves and others down? I think we shouldn’t. The devil condemns and makes us feel guilty; however, the Holy Spirit convicts and draws us to repentance and change of our lives. So we must ignore that voice that wants us to feel like we are hypocrites and instead listen to the still small voice that convicts us to do what is right. Practically, my advice would be that if possible let us not be religious in promising to pray for others and only promise those people to whom we feel led and are ready to go an extra mile in interceding for. Sometimes the best time to intercede maybe there and then when we are still in conversation with the person and agreeing in prayer with them without hesitation, but again there are no rules and we ought to yield to the direction of the Spirit.
There are also people who for obvious reasons need our intercession more clearly. In my opinion, there are situations when our faith is tested and personal prayer becomes hard for example by loss or sickness of a loved one. In such times, we need to be more deliberate to stand in the gap because the situations tend to weigh down practically everyone directly involved. We don’t need to promise or be asked, it is good that we lift to those people in prayer because many times they may be unable to even ask. For anyone who knows the power of prayer, I do not think they would take it for granted that someone else is praying for them and if at all anyone would choose not pray for themselves because someone else is praying for them then they are just the right candidates to be prayed for.