‘I’ll pray for you’ as a platitude – it’s actually a disturbing thought.
Sometimes we use it as flippantly as a ‘see you later.’ I know most times we don’t do it in unkindness. But if we don’t really mean it, then it seems like the abuse of a promise; the crushing of the beautiful genuineness of interceding for someone before our heavenly Father, of helping to carrying their burdens.
And so I, and perhaps you, need to keep reminding ourselves, that we want what we say to count. We want it to be true. And so this first scenario gets us to think about bridling our tongues from saying things we don’t mean and from cheapening the reality of what praying for someone means. We do this, knowing the forgiveness available in Jesus for our shortcomings.
There is a second scenario. It’s when we do mean it but, if you’re anything like me, you simply forget to follow up on it. So if scenario one ended with: if you don’t mean it, then don’t say it. Then scenario two is: If you do mean it (or say it), then do something about it.
Do something about it:
For me: I need to write that person’s name down soon or else there’s a good chance I’ll forget it. And usually I write it on a piece of paper (that Sunday’s sermon outline etc.). But actually I tend to lose those as well. So… the best shot of keeping it is to make a note of it on my phone – I mean when do we not ever have our phones around, right?
What would it be for you?
The usefulness of lists:
In addition, here is where lists can also come in handy as reminders for prayer.
You could, for instance, have a small white board with the following headings:
- Pray for
Category 4 people might be people that you’re praying something specific for them. Maybe they have something on that week. Or they’re off of your phone list and you said you’d pray for them about something on the go. After a few times of prayer for ‘that’, their name gets removed. Seems mechanical but it’s not.
Category 1-3 are a bit different. This is those who, even if perhaps you hadn’t promised it to them, they need regular prayer for an extended period of time.
Category 1 (Daily) is crisis mode/triage. Either they’re simply struggling to make it through the day, or perhaps some tragedy has recently struck. They get prayed for pretty much each day.
Category 2 (Weekly) is sustained prayer. Perhaps they’re 2 months after that tragedy and rather than simply letting them go, they still need to be remembered in prayer fairly often. You could put god-kids in this category (or the next) I suppose. Anything like that.
Category 3 (Monthly) is occasional prayer. It could perhaps be people further along from category 2 or whoever else might fit into here.
It’s something. We often don’t keep our best intentions. Praise God that his grace reaches and that his mercies are new every day. Part of that means we can always restart working through those lists of upholding people in prayer before the Father who both listens to our prayers and actually longs to hear them. It’s often tough to pray – small starts are good starts. And long term consistent prayer is a good aim. The little bits add up.
Lists can be an aid to us simply desiring and trying to be consistent. They’re intended as a combat against our propensity for forgetfulness. Well they are for me – and so I’ll probably need to keep using them.
I suppose lastly, that nothing can quite beat praying for someone with them in the then and there moment. Do that. And then put them on ‘the list’.
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