Requests for prayer are many. We hear them at church. Our friends ask us to pray for them. We get emails and facebook updates asking for prayer. Sometimes we hear about a troubling situation and we offer words of "I'll pray for you" as comfort and encouragement. The Bible has much to say about prayer. One of my favourite verses on prayer is James 5:16. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Have you ever had a deep need? Something you were really burdened about. Maybe you asked a friend to pray for you, but how do you know that they will pray? Maybe your church has a prayer chain, and your request has been passed through it. Maybe you're prayer is not answered. Maybe the situation gets worse. Does that ever make you think that maybe those you asked to pray forgot about your request?
Many times people have asked me to pray for them. Many times I've said I would pray for them. Most often I would forget. Then I would feel so guilty. I felt like I let that person down. I even started to hesitate to tell others that I would pray for them, because I knew I probably wouldn't remember. I didn't want to make a promise I couldn't keep, and saying I would pray for someone and not doing it is telling a lie! How sad is that. I could not even encourage a friend by simply praying for them because I had failed so many times that I wanted to give up. I started to rationalize my lack of praying by thinking that God knows the situation anyways. He knows I would pray for it if I remembered to, so He'll probably count that as me praying even if I don't actually pray. That's probably good human rational, but it's not very Scriptural thinking. The Bible says we are to pray without ceasing (I Thess 5:17). So much for me being obedient to that command. I couldn't even remember a simple prayer request from a friend or family member.
Then came the time when situations arose in my life, and I wanted someone to pray for me. My lack of a prayer life made me hesitate to ask others to pray for my requests. Why should they pray for me when I don't even pray for them? And who's to say they won't be like me and say that they'll pray for me, but just forget about it two seconds later. I didn't want to ask people to pray for me if they were just going to forget about it. I needed prayer, not just an empty promise. I needed them to care.
God really began to work on me about this. Of course I wanted people to care about my prayer requests, but I couldn't expect that if I didn't show the same love and care to them. What right did I have to demand something from others that I wasn't willing to give? I began to pray a bit more. I began to write things down and actually read over the list more than just when I initially wrote it. Another thing God used to help (convict) me was the testimony of my Pastor. My Pastor did something with prayer requests that was a bit different. We have our regular prayer meeting at church once a week, and in my experience at other churches that was pretty much the extent of prayer in the service. Except for a prayer for the offering and maybe one at the close of the service. Most of the time if there was a need in the congregation or a missionary requested prayer, we would be told to pray for so and so and that was the end of it. When I moved back up north and began attending church here, I noticed that my Pastor's approach to prayer requests was much different from other pastors I had known. He would read a missionary letter in Sunday School, and immediately after reading it he would ask one of the men to pray for the needs of the missionary. He didn't wait for the mid-week prayer service, or just tell us to remember the missionary in our prayers that week. He had prayer for that missionary right then and there. Sometimes we have a time of praise and testimony in our morning service. Many times that also includes some prayer requests. Pastor will either pray himself or ask another one of the men to lift up that request right at that moment. I've even seen him stop mid-sermon in the middle of his preaching and pray for a person or situation! Sometimes he'll come up to the pulpit at the beginning of our Sunday service and tell us of someone that week that he said he would pray for. He'll ask us to pray for them and lead us in prayer right at that moment. Sometimes he'll read an email he was sent, and again pray for that situation whether it's Sunday school, the morning worship service, or the evening service. He doesn't wait until the mid-week prayer service to pray for a need. He prays for it immediately. He doesn't just tell us to pray for people, he has us pray for them. Of course he does encourage us to pray during the week, but I find it much easier to remember something that we've already prayed for at church. It's amazing how the more you pray the more you remember to pray.
My Pastor's attitude toward prayer taught me something. Instead of telling a person I would pray for them and then going on about my business, I should pray for them right at that moment. Instead of responding to the email and saying "I will pray for you," I should pray for the person first and then respond to the email with "I just prayed for you." If I pray right when I say I will pray, I won't have to worry about forgetting. Then I can get rid of all those terrible feelings of guilt for not keeping my word.
We all have people who we know pray for us when we ask them too. Their lives show their dedication to God, and we can be confident that when they say "I'll pray for you" it's not just empty words. We see their genuine love and compassion, and prayer is what develops those characteristics in us. We also all know people who when they say "I'll pray for you" we think, yah right... empty promises. Their lives don't show the compassion. They don't show the love, and while they probably mean well by saying they will pray, we doubt their sincerity and ability to follow through on the promise. Something is missing in their character that makes us question whether they keep their promise to pray. I used to be that kind of person. The one who never followed through on the promise. I'm trying to change that because I want to pray for people. I want to be the person that others go to with confidence and ask prayer. God is helping me to change, and I can say that He is giving me victory. I want to be a prayer warrior because I need so much help from God. I want to be a prayer warrior, so that I can help others. God will answer our prayers, but only if we pray.
The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. Psalm 6:9