When We Lie about Praying for Others: Seven Thoughts

It happened on this blog. It was unexpected and revealing at the same time. Someone made a comment that, above all, he needed people praying for him. So I wrote in response, "I'm praying for you. I really mean it." Then I paused. Why did I write "I really mean it"? Wasn't my promise of prayer sufficient? Why did I have to add a child-like "cross my heart" promise? Unfortunately, I knew the answers to the questions even as I asked myself. I have sometimes lied when I promised someone I would pray for them. Please don't judge me too harshly, though the breaking of the promise of prayer probably deserves such condemnation. It is not my intention to lie. It is not my intention to fail to pray for that person. I simply forget after I tell them. Again, that statement is an indictment in itself. This confessional may seem totally strange to you. It is likely that you have not messed up in this area like I have. How does it happen? It's not an excuse, but the situation usually works in this manner. Someone approaches me and asks for prayer. It might be right after I've spoken somewhere. So I tell them I will most certainly pray for them. But I don't. I forget about their heartfelt request as soon as I start talking to the next person. On other occasions I will see someone I know. I pass them in a hallway or speak to them on the phone. I know that they are in a particular situation that needs intercessory prayer, so I make a promise: "I'll be praying for you brother (or sister)." And, then again, I forget. I lie. I lie about something as sacred and holy as prayer. As you can likely tell, I am convicted of this sin. I have asked God to forgive me and I have begun to make certain I don't lie about intercessory prayer again. Here are seven steps I am taking:

1. When someone requests my prayer, I will try to pray for him or her at that very moment. Perhaps their hearing of my prayer right after they ask will be an encouragement to them.
2. I have begun praying that God will remind me about prayer requests. Sometimes I am too busy for my own good. God is never too busy for me.
3. I will be honest with those who request prayer. I will not promise more than I will actually do.
4. I will be more diligent in my own prayer time. I am convinced that one of the reasons I forget to pray for others is my lack of diligence in a focused daily quiet time.
5. I will sometimes write down prayer requests. I use my iPhone for so many things. Why not record prayer requests? I have a reminder app, a notes app, and a voice memo app. And I finally decided to download a prayer notebook app. I have no excuse not to make note of requests.
6. I will avoid being a Pharisee. Sometimes I really feel like I made promises of prayer because I wanted to be liked by the person making the request. That is sinful and Pharisaic. My prayers are not to please men and women, but to be obedient to God.
7. Sometimes I will ask the person requesting prayer to send me an email. Recently I received a prayer request as I was leaving the room to catch a plane after a speaking engagement. In my hurry I feared that I would yet again forget. I let him know I was on my way out and asked him to email me. I apologized for my rush and thanked him for doing so.

I understand that this post may have little meaning to many of you. It's very personal for me because of my own failures. I decided to write it for three reasons. First, I want to be bold enough to ask readers to pray for my own prayer life. Second, I sense a greater accountability by writing this blog. I can always anticipate a reader may ask how I'm doing in this struggle. Third, there may be a few of you who struggle like I do. Perhaps my words helped a bit. Thanks for listening. Thanks for praying.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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