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"I'll Be Praying for You"

How to say it—and pray it—like you mean it.
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I sat across the table from my friend Susan, searching her pain-filled eyes and wondering how I could help. Her situation was outside my realm of influence: She had suffered an unexpected personal attack from former friends within the congregation her husband pastored. And I had no words to right the wrongs or ease her aching heart. "I'm sorry," I attempted weakly. She half-smiled, then asked me to pray for her.

Unable to offer anything else, I promised I'd join her in making Mondays a day of fasting and prayer for her and her church. But after leaving our lunch and resuming my crazy schedule, would I actually keep my promise?

Entering the Interior

Too often when I encounter someone's desperate need, I offer a quick "You're in my prayers" without slowing down enough to make good on my word. Any "real" praying I do consists of a hastily muttered sentence during my busy day, as if I'm merely checking off my to-do list or making God aware of a situation he might've missed.

But the responsibility to pray for others deserves serious attention, as the abundance of biblical examples indicates. Moses regularly spoke with God on the Israelites' behalf because of their sin (Numbers 21:7). Esther requested her people to fast three days before she faced a volatile king (Esther 4:15-16). Paul asked early church members to pray for his speaking ministry (Ephesians 6:19-20). And Jesus spent most of his longest recorded prayer in passionate intercession for us (John 17).

Intercession—derived from the Latin words inter (between) and cedere (to go)—is an intervening or mediating between two parties with the goal of reconciling differences. And the key to a spiritual intervention is prayer. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers calls intercessory prayer "the ministry of the interior" and "the real business of your life as a saved soul." If so, we need to move past good intentions and make interceding a vital part of living in Christian community.

Standing in the Gap

God invites us to participate in his concern for his children by going before him on their behalf. During the prophet Ezekiel's lifetime, the Lord longed to show mercy to his wayward people through an intercessor: "I looked for a man among them who would … stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it" (Ezekiel 22:30). My friend describes this kind of gap-standing prayer as "reaching out a warm hand to a hurting friend while never relaxing your other hand's firm grip on God. You make a life-giving connection."

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Related Topics:Challenges; Friendship; Prayer

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Faithful Witness

November 05, 2008  7:07pm

I had found myself giving a half-hearted, "I'll pray for you" when approached by co-workers, friends, etc. who were in need of prayer. Sometimes I did pray for them, half-heartedly, and sometimes I would forget. I came to realize that I was asked to pray for them because they felt I had a special connection with God. Now, I use that opportunity to let them know that God favors no man and to help strengthen their spirituality. But, most importantly, I pray for them right there on the spot and encourage them to pray out loud and tell God what they need. This way, I have fulfilled my promise and also helped them with their relationship with God. Then, afterwards, I pray that God strenthens that person and draws them closer to Him.

Cheryl

November 02, 2008  8:10pm

Please pray for my daughters Tammy, and ToniLynn both are wonderful Christian wives. They both want to have a baby, and are struggling to concieve. Please lift them up unto the Lord. Thankyou, and God Bless Cheryl Also for me having some serious financial problems including taking care of my Dads stuff since his death on 9/22/08. I am in alot of turmoil. And some scary health problems...(including overweight, high blood pressure, and stomach issues..) I want to be healthy in all ways...

Prema October

September 01, 2008  1:29am

Many a times I have told people: " I will pray for you" and as soon as those words left my mouth I even forgot what I was supposed to pray for. It was like I was saying the normal greeting ritual of: Good morning, how are you? Hi, I am fine. But your article really made me think about going deeper then just : I WILL PRAY FOR YOU... I became detached from people in a bad way, I could no longer feel what they felt... i guess my life became more important, but now I see the LIGHT. It would be quite sad it the people I know that always pray for me would stop... never thought of that... What if my pastor no longer interceded for me when I ask him too... etc. Thank you Michelle, got alotto think about now. God bless

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