“I’m praying for you” is a very traditional and typical response many Christians say when someone is going through a difficult situation.
Now I will be the first I admit that this is often my response. I am embarrassed to admit there are times I tell someone I’m praying for them, yet I forget to actually pray. I mean well in those moments, and I believe others do too. But I am wondering if there are other things we can do to walk alongside someone that complement our prayers.
I am embarrassed to admit there are times I tell someone I’m praying for them, yet I forget to actually pray.
When I was in the hospital in 2019, I noticed something interesting. Many Christians would tell me they are praying for me, and I would never hear from them again after that. However, my unchurched friends, who for obvious reasons didn’t say, “I’m praying for you,” all responded by offering practical ways to help me as I was recovering. Some offered money; others offered to bring food or shovel the snow from my driveway. I think the heart they had towards me was the same as my church friends. However, when I look back, I can only remember the names of the people who put that heart into action, not the ones who just said they are praying and then went missing in action.
Could you imagine if that was Jesus’ response to everyone in need? Instead of feeding the 5000 – “I’m praying for you.” Instead of healing the bleeding woman – “I’m praying for you.” Instead of calming the storm when his disciples were in the boat, what if Jesus just said, “I’m praying for you,” and did nothing?
In no way, shape, or form am I saying prayer is bad. In fact, there are many times the situation and needs are so great at the time that all we can do is simply pray. However, there are other times when prayer isn’t the only thing we can do.
I heard a sermon 15 years ago that challenged me in this area of my life. The pastor said, “Why pray for someone to feed the hungry when we can go feed them ourselves?”
Although I am far from perfect, I now say, “I will pray, and….”
What does “and” look like? Maybe it’s simply feeding the hungry or helping cover a month of rent for someone who fell on tough times. What the person is going through and how we can help will be much different each time. But each time it gives us an opportunity to put God’s love into action like Jesus did as we walk alongside them in their difficult season.
A simple response next time someone you care about is going through a difficult time, whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job, tell them you are praying for them. And actually pray for them.
Then follow it up by saying, “And in the meantime, what do you need right now?” They might be able to guide you in how you can respond and walk with them in love.
So I encourage you, don’t just pray for people. Pray and walk with them in their difficult season of need.