"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." - James 5:16
We've all been there - you run into that old friend or acquaintance you haven't seen in years. After catching up with the normal small talk of asking about each other's job, children, spouses, or other updates, you don't want to end the conversation with an awkward, but likely accurate "well, see you when we run into each other in five years". So we leave the conversation with the hope that we will connect again soon, letting each other down easy by saying, "We should do lunch sometime." You don't exchange phone numbers or email addresses, and walk away to the next stop on the day's agenda. Who knows if you'll ever see or talk to that person again. And do you really care?
Now, think about a similar conversation with someone you know is a fellow Christian - a church friend, co-worker, or other connection. They tell you about the job they just lost, the illness of their child or spouse, the struggles they are having in their marriage. And we leave the conversation with a sincere and heartfelt, "I'll be praying for you". But what do you do with that promise to keep that person in your prayers? Do you move on with your own agenda, or do you sincerely make it a point to put that person on your prayer list and commit time in prayer?
I'll be the first to raise my hand and admit that this has been a fault of mine for much of my life. I can think of so many times I've left a conversation with statements like, "I'll be praying for you" or "I'll be praying for your ministry." But in reality, I didn't make time for any prayer time with God, much less using that time to pray for others, so it was an empty promise; it was a "let's do lunch" moment.
Even now that I've carved out quiet time daily to talk to God, I have to make it a point to spend time praying for others; I have to confess that many times that quiet time can turn into a selfish pursuit of one on one time with God, to hear what I want to hear, to get what I think I should get from that time with Him.
This is going to sound strange, but in my opinion, praying for others regularly isn't easy. As I mentioned before, many of us get busy with our schedules and don't take the time to pray at all. And many of us focus what little time we take to pray to focus on our own problems and situations. But think about it - prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we have in our arsenal. The devil knows this, and is doing his best to keep us distracted with anything that will keep us from praying for others. Because as James says in James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective"!
For those of you who do truly commit to praying for others regularly, I applaud you and so admire your commitment to take on this essential role in God's army. Intercessory prayer is such an amazing and powerful weapon. But oftentimes, I would submit that many of use abuse the word "prayer" in our daily walk, as we tell others we will pray for them, pray for a certain decision or outcome, etc., when that's the easy way out, the "let's do lunch" commitment that makes us feel good as we walk away with no intention of following through.
I would challenge each of you, the next time you make that statement to someone, to take the next step and truly, earnestly, put that commitment to prayer. As we know from James 5:16 and many other Bible verses regarding prayer (such as Mark 11:24, Acts 10:4, Ephesians 6:18), you are making a difference in that situation. And you are honoring that person, your word, and God by following through.
I'm going to do my best to make this commitment in prayer for others. If you decide to join me, please share your stories of how this made a difference in your life and the lives of others. I am confident you have many exciting adventures to share!
- Adam Gellert