I wonder how many people lie about praying for other people or about situations they hear about. I’ve known many people over the years, who upon hearing about someone who was sick, dying, or had an accident, or were losing their house or a loved one, or their job, or spouse, or there was some other serious need, responded by saying they will pray for whatever it was that was needed, only to not pray about it, forgetting it completely. What started me on this topic? I went through some pretty serious surgery, and many people said they were praying for me, and for sure I know they were. But I also figure some didn’t, and in that sense they cheated me out of their prayers when I really needed them!
The fact is, many people use the “prayer request” as an opportunity to spread news to other people. When you call it a prayer request, that’s shorthand for saying, this is something you should pay attention to. It’s a verbal high lighter that people should listen to what you are saying. I don’t have a problem with people highlighting their news reports by calling it a prayer request…. unless they don’t actually pray for whatever it is they said they would pray for. If they don’t pray, they’d be more honest calling it a “News Flash!”
I know that sometimes people forget they said they would pray. After all, you can’t blame people for having a bad memory. Some people claim to put it on their prayer list. That’s good, because they didn’t offer to really pray, just to put it on their list. As long as they actually have a list and put it on their list, they aren’t lying. I don’t know how being on a list that no one prays for helps, but at least they didn’t lie.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against people praying for things. People experiencing the traumas of life absolutely need prayers, and I for one am a firm believer in praying for them. I just feel if we say we are going to pray for people, we ought to do it!
We are supposed to be the people of God. That means we are the ones who actually *DO* have a hotline to heaven. If anyone is going to pray effectively, it should be us. That’s what it means to be a nation of priests. We are supposed to be interceding for the people around us. My mother, who is a firm believer in Yeshua’s Father, calls me for prayer for whomever she knows who needs it because she believes God listens to me. If I value the fact that she asks me to pray, it would be downright sinful for me not to pray; and that’s the point of this tirade.
Prayer is actually a powerful thing we do, yet it is trivialized by people reducing it to an expression. If my prayers really make a difference, and I don’t pray, thinking someone else will cover it, and then nothing happens, people might get the wrong idea God didn’t come through, when its possible that I didn’t do my part in the first place. If someone asks me to pray, I feel bound and obligated to do so. Its my calling; not because I’m some prayer warrior, a term I hate, or because I am more of a prayer person than other people of faith. I pray because it’s what I’m supposed to do, especially if someone asks me to do it. If you think I’m cranky when I write these posts, you should hear my prayers. God knows I’m cranky, so he doesn’t mind my cranky prayers. I tell him whats wrong and how I feel about it. I leave what to do about it to Him.
I pray for people who asked me to pray for them. I don’t use holy words like some people. I don’t raise my arms or get on my knees; mainly because it would be too hard for me to get off my knees when I’m done. I don’t usually close my eyes either. I usually pray in English because I’m more comfortable that way. I got tired of trying everyone’s prayer formulas so I stopped using them. I do whats comfortable for me. I lay it all out and tell God I’m putting it in his hands and ask him to do something, because I asked him. I usually don’t think about it much after that, unless I hear back from people, but I trust God to take care of it.
When I pray from the Siddur, that’s different. Those prayers are not about supplication. When I pray from the Siddur, I lose myself in those prayers. I do those prayers for me. They have a different function. I know some people will want to tell me that there are some intercessory prayers in the Siddur, and they use those. To them I say.. Mazel Tov, but really I don’t care. I pray those prayers. This isn’t about what works for you, but what works for me. I try to obey God, or in other words, do what he asks, and in a similar way, God does things when I pray, because I asked him. Its not a question of obedience, but of relationship. Ultimately, It’s not about any of this or how you pray except that if you say you will pray for someone, you damn well better DO IT! How can I say this? Because I’m a rabbi for Christ’s sake!