People ask me to pray for them, which is my great honor and my privilege to do so. Often, though, they seem to say it more as a part of the conversation than as a real plea for spiritual intervention. Like when we say, “Have a nice day.” Or the contemporary version, “Have a good one.”
They tell me about something in their lives they’re concerned with. A sick family member. Financial struggles. Work challenges. Wayward children. Fears and concerns. Then as we’re parting company and they’re already turning away, they throw in the period at the end of the sentence, which is the well-worn phrase, “Pray for me.” It’s said as an afterthought often without any real expectation for action.
Ah, wait a minute. Hold your horses. Stop in your tracks. Don’t take another step. Well, I don’t say those things but I think them. Come back here. I’ll pray for you right now.
I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t pray for someone immediately, I might forget to pray for them at all. I hate to admit it, but more things slip out of my mind than they used to.
Also, there’s something special about saying a prayer out loud in the moment of the request. In so doing, we create a space for conversation with the Lord. A holy space as we intervene for another fellow human being and bring their concerns before the Lord. Sometimes we are so life weary, we don’t know how to pray for ourselves. That’s when others stand in the gap for us. In turn, that’s when we stand in that same scared place for others.
I’ve learned this from the people who have stopped in their tracks and taken the time to pray for me when I’ve said off-handedly, “Oh, but the way, pray for me.”
I’ve learned this from others who have prayed for me when I didn’t know I needed prayer. They have stood in the gap for me. The gap is created when we lack something. Maybe it’s the ability to pray for ourselves because we are so mired in sin we can’t lift up our heads to Heaven.
Or maybe it’s the total lack of discernment to realize that we even need prayer. Maybe we don’t believe we deserve forgiveness, so we don’t even ask because we’re sure we won’t receive it and we don’t want to be rejected. Again.
Whatever the reason, there’s a gap that exists between us and the Lord. And sometimes, we need others to stand in that gap and pray for us. Some who have prayed for me I’ve only known for a moment, but are still dear to me. Others I’ve known almost a lifetime and they have become treasured friends. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to stand in that gap and pray for others.
Sometimes in the course of a conversation I’ll ask someone, “Do you want me to pray for you?”
It surprises me how often the response is, “Well, it can’t hurt.”
No, that’s right. Prayer never hurts. In fact, it always helps. We may not get the results we want or think we really need, but prayer is always a blessing. We know that from the life of Jesus. He stopped in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and his grueling journey to the cross began. Of course he knew what was coming. His human side vulnerable and exposed, he prayed to His Father asking for this terrible pain and suffering to be taken from him, but only if it was the Father’s will. After he prayed, Jesus walked the path laid out for him.
There was a woman I once knew who would yell at me from across a room. She’d see me, yell my name and announce that she needed prayed for something. Usually, she’d yell the request, too. It still makes me smile when I think of her. At first I was embarrassed because I don’t like to be the center of attention. But I got over that. In fact, I came to love and admire that quality she possessed. The quality of knowing that she needed prayer. Desperately. Right this minute. And the quality of asking for it without any reticence or self-consciousness.
I also came to love the great honor that she thought there was only one person who could pray for her. Me.
So, let me know if you need prayer. It would be my great honor to pray for you. Please pray for me. For wisdom, kindness, love for others, increasing faith and to stay on the narrow path and anything else that pops into your mind.