The following article is an opinion piece by the author and represents the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
Maybe it’s not a national tragedy. Maybe it’s just a status update on Facebook letting everyone know your teenage daughter got her driver’s license and you want people to pray. Either way, the responses are usually predictable. Praying, prayers, prayers going up, you’re in my prayers, I’m praying for you, etc. (Side note: A personal pet-peeve of mine is “Prayers TO the family/city/police/whatever.” Praying TO the person/place/thing don’t do any good. We have to pray TO God FOR the need. Maybe that can be seen as nitpicking, but we’ll talk about why that’s important.)
There’s really no wrong way to respond, aside from possibly the afore mentioned side note. The key is to keep your word and pray for the need. That’s right. You made a commitment to pray for someone. If only the one word response of “prayers,” you agreed with them to cry out to the Almighty Creator of the Universe on their behalf to ask Him to meet their need. Be it a friend on social media, or the little old lady in Sunday service. You promised. We’ll cover lying in an article down the road, but in short: It’s bad.
Praying for others is one of the most important things we can do as followers of Christ. It’s important that we honor our commitment to each other, and to God when we tell people we will pray for them. It’s not always easy to ask for prayer to begin with. Opening ourselves up and becoming vulnerable can be uncomfortable. That person opened themselves up to you. Ephesians 6:18 says, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” It’s not something that’s voluntary for the believer. It’s something we are directed to do. Think about that next time you tell you give a standard response and leave it at that.
On the other side of that coin, there’s the one asking for prayer. We’ve already established that it can be hard to ask for help. Many times our pride stands in the way. We don’t want to appear weak, or less than faithful, and we don’t want to burden others with our problems. The Bible is clear that nothing should stop us from coming together as believers in prayer. James 5:14-16 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
There’s some heavy stuff in there. Letting folks in on your problems, confessing our sins to each other. The fact that we don’t do this like we should, may also be the cause of the haphazard attitude concerning prayer. If we can’t bring ourselves to voice our issues to each other, then we can’t expect them to lift us up in earnest prayer. It doesn’t have to be on Facebook for the whole world to see, but if someone asks how you’re doing, take a moment and reflect before you say, “fine.”
As believers we’ve got to change our mindset on prayer. We’ve got to understand that it’s more than a hashtag, it’s more than positive thoughts, or juju, or good vibes. It’s a direct line of communication to the Alpha and Omega. We have to be honest with each other about what our needs are, and we have to be honest when we tell people that we will honor our commitment to them to offer prayers on their behalf. Most importantly, we have to be honest with God. If we do that, the rest will take care of itself.
Danny Burnham Religion Contributor