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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"I'm Praying For You" and Other Half-Truths

Prepare yourself: I found out in an article the other day that Subway’s foot-long subs are not really a foot long. They are 11 inches.

When I found out, it was kind of like that moment you started to realize that maybe, just maybe, Santa isn’t real. Maybe it is sort of illogical for one man to stop at every single house in the world to drop off presents in one night. Maybe Santa’s handwriting did look suspiciously like mom and dad's, now that you think about it. Maybe a foot-long sub was too good to be true.

Now, I get that the baking process likely has a considerable effect on the size, probably making it shrink an inch or so in the oven. But, at first, I felt lied to. Subway wasn’t telling us the whole truth!

“I studied as hard as I could.” Come on now…that’s usually another half-truth.

“I eat and breathe Starbucks.” That’s a half-truth, too…otherwise, things would get really weird, really fast.

“I’m praying for you.”

Is it true?

I’ve recently been awakened to this dangerous half-truth that has infiltrated contemporary Christian circles. “I’m praying for you” has become a kind and courteous thing to say, and it is; but do we actually mean it?

In today’s lingo, telling someone you’re praying for them has become nearly synonymous with telling someone you’re thinking of them. Culture has likened them to one another, placing them together on greeting cards and in conversation – even non-Christians will throw out generic phrases like “you’re in my thoughts and prayers.” It is almost as if they both hold the same significance. Proceed with caution, Christian; this cheapens the power of prayer in a dangerous way.

When your brother-in-law has confided in you and is struggling, when your friend has a make-it-or-break-it final exam, when the cashier shares with you that she has just broken up with her boyfriend, when your best friend’s beloved dog dies, it is the courteous, Christian thing to do to say that you’re praying for that person.

Please don’t mishear what I am saying! Praying for people is an amazing way to live out Christ’s love for others.

But be completely and brutally honest with yourself: when you say you’ll be praying for someone, do you actually commit to praying for that person?

The me about a year ago would have taken a hard swallow and answered that question with a “no.” “I’m praying for you” were words that routinely came out of my mouth at the end of certain conversations, but the promise they held was typically empty. I meant well. I really did. I meant to be praying for them. But life moves so fast, and by the time I would get home, my promise was near forgotten. I promised prayer, but I didn’t commit to it.

Over and over again in the Bible, we see Christ-followers wrestling, fighting, committing to praying for one another. In Colossians 4:12, Paul tells the church of Colosse that their friend Epaphras is “always wrestling in prayer” for them. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is filled with him encouraging the saints in Ephesus that he is praying for them nonstop, with heartfelt adamancy and perseverance. He tells them in Ephesians 1:16 that he has “not stopped giving thanks for [them], remembering [them] in [his] prayers.” He says that he “keep[s] asking” that God would give them wisdom and knowledge of Him. Paul constantly gets before the Father on their behalf. He pours his time and energy and heart into prayer. He has committed to praying for them. In 1 Samuel 12:23, Samuel even says that “ceasing to pray” for his people would be a sin.

So when did prayer become a formality?

Prayer was never a formality. Prayer is and has always been a commitment.

The words “I’m praying for you” may bring comfort to those in need, but unless you actually pray, the comfort will be superficial and the power your prayer could contain will run dry. 

The world doesn’t need the well-intentioned promise of your prayers. The world needs you to actually pray. 

The promise of prayer will not change hearts. The promise of prayer will not change circumstances. The promise of prayer will not change anything.

But actually praying could very well change everything.

Dear Christian, know this, and fight to know this with every fiber in your being: prayer is powerful. Prayer is beautiful. Prayer changes things. It may not change your circumstances, but it will awaken hope in your heart. It will invite God’s redeeming presence into the blackest of nights, the stoniest of hearts, and the most hopeless of situations. Prayer. Is. Powerful.

 “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16b-18

The promise of your prayers is useless unless it is paired with committed action. Next time you say those words – “I’m praying for you” – I challenge you: make it a full truth. Don’t just say you’ll be praying.
Make prayer a commitment in your life, not just a formality. The promise of you praying is futile, but the action of you praying is more powerful than you know.


Taylor Fohr

Taylor is a current freshman at UCF. She loves running and being active, sitting in coffee shops but drinking tea, music, other cultures, good conversations, hard questions, and getting to know people. Taylor is a part of University Carillon United Methodist Church, where she works in the children's and youth ministries and also plays piano/keys in the worship band. Though she has not decided what she wants to study, she plans on spending her next few years doing whatever it is God wants her to (which, she hopes, includes lots of traveling)!

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