The fact that Christians should be people that pray cannot be denied by any believer of the Bible. There are numerous passages in the New Testament that suggest that Christians must have their lives saturated with prayer. Paul wrote to a group of Christians located in the famous, populated city of Thessalonica and admonished them to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). Even Jesus is recorded encouraging his followers to be people that always pray and never grow weary in doing so (Luke 18:1). While we will all agree with the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian, and perhaps the fact that we need to do more of it, this article is geared toward the often-used phrase “I’m praying for you”.
Have you ever used this phrase or one like “you’ll be in my prayers?” These phrases are often quickly said when one hears of a situation that someone is going through or a trial that an individual is currently enduring. Are we using this phrase because we are “too busy” to listen and this is the spiritual response? Or maybe we don’t want to get our hands dirty, and this phrase shows concern and keeps me from getting involved. While the abilities and opportunities that we all have are different and unique, I want to encourage us all to do better than simply using this phrase as a “get out of service free card”. If we are not careful we can use this phrase to keep us from doing the deeds that we can do.
While we absolutely do need to pray for things that individuals are experiencing and trials that fellow Christians and non-Christians are enduring, we also can be an answer to individual’s prayers at times. When discussing the relationship between faith and works (what one professes vs. what one demonstrates), James gives the example of someone needing clothing and food. In this example, the Christian simply responds with “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” (Jas. 2:15-16 ESV). James shows us that the needs of others will be addressed if one truly has faith. What would we say to that today? If we see someone without adequate clothing and without daily bread; is our response simply, “I’m praying for you?” While we do not need to do for others what they have the responsibility to do for themselves (2 Thes. 3:10, 1 Tim. 5:8), Christians do have the duty of bearing the burdens of one another and being servants to those in need (Gal. 6:2, Jas. 1:27).
Jesus gives a sneak peek into the final judgment scene in Matthew 25 and describes those who will be separated from God and those who will enjoy eternal fellowship with God. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus tells a parable describing those who will be cast out of his presence eternally because they did not feed him, clothe him, take him in when he was a stranger, and neglected to visit him in sickness and in prison. These individuals all responded with the idea that if they knew it was Jesus they would have readily provided the things needed, they would have done what was needed to be done to relieve the burden of him who needed their assistance, but the fact remains that they didn’t do it. Can you imagine spending eternity away from God not because of what you did wrong but because of what you didn’t do that was right? Prayer is a good thing and we need to pray as often as we can, but the Christian life is not one that can be lived on our knees, there is a time to get up and serve.
If individuals come to us under financial burden and we can help, let’s not respond with simply saying “I’m praying for you.” When we are confronted with those who are having doubts in their faith, let’s help them find the answers they need and not cheaply respond with “I’m praying for you.” When people need a shoulder to lean on or simply someone to talk to, let’s not rush on with our heads down toward our iPhone and respond “I’m praying for you.” Let us be the people who serve. Christianity is a religion of prayer and one of service. Prayer is important, but we should strive not to neglect one for the other.