Last week, I read an article called, “5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying”. As a millennial, I resonated with each phrase and hoped more good-intentioned evangelicals would think through some of the implications of insider language like, “God’s plan” or “first world problems”. When I began to embrace Anabaptist thought, I slowly removed Christianese pet phrases like, “Too blessed to be stressed” or “God has a plan” from my vocabulary. My none-but-Jesus hermeneutic just can not reconcile the trite with Truth and while they roll from my tongue with little effort and lots of panache, they don’t sound like Jesus or communicate his love. This Calvary-like love begins with humility and foot-in-mouth blanket phrases of faith prevent me from walking with the hurting with humility so—the Christian clichés must die!
One phrase suggested in the post that particularly struck me was, “I’ll be praying for you”. I say this all the time and at first, I reared back in my kitchen chair at the writer’s audacity to check my godly good intentions. After I thought (and read his explanation—it really does make a difference when you take a moment to kick defensiveness to the curb, quiet your anxiety, and LISTEN), I realized that when we use “I’ll be praying for you” as a way to say:
“I kinda sorta care and since we’re Christians I’m suppose to mention that I’ll pray for you. Paul said something about that right? Right. So, I’ll pray for you. Like…. generally…like with as little words as I can and check you off my to-do list as if you are as important to me as my laundry or water bill”
we strip away the power of heaven touching earth that only passionate pleas offered by siblings to a loving Father can bring.
But, the truth is, I’m one of those weird people who actually loves to pray for others. It doesn’t make me holier or special— I just think God made me a really, really, enthusiastic talker and like most talkers, I’m prone to gossip. I think prayer is my way of tipping the ear of the Divine and gossiping about the injustice of the world. “Can you believe what is going on in Haiti, right now, Lord? Isn’t it scandalous how frustrating these children can be? Jesus, you’re gonna flip some tables when I tell you what my husband said to me last night. All of this is a hot, hot mess, Lord. What can we do? Will you hold my secrets fears about all the drama close to your chest and reveal the mysteries of your healing to them? Will you change me so I can look a little bit more like you?”
Praying has become one of favorite ways to love someone with my words (and my urge to talk everything out) and so, while I’ll make sure I don’t ask “are you saved”, or show off my mystical bent with cryptic mentions of “unspoken” prayer requests, I’ll keep saying “I’ll be praying for you”.
When I say, “I’ll be praying for you”, I means more than, “I’m so super holy! Check it— Jesus and I talk so Imma talk to him about you. Don’t you worry, boo, this Christian girl’s got this!”
What I mean when I say I’m praying for you, is that I believe that you will find a light and I want to hold your hand in the darkness.
When I say I’m praying for you, I’m admitting that I don’t have all the answers. As compassionate as I try to be and as often as I ask God for wisdom, sometimes when you’re facing me with questions, I can only stare back to with uncertainty. I’m uncertain where you should go to grad school, or how your marriage will make it through infidelity, or when you’ll make it out of a spiritual desert. The good news is, uncertainty doesn’t negate faith, hope, or love, so when I say I’m praying for you, I’m saying, “I have faith that Jesus cares, hope that he’s with us right now, and I love you too much let the questions overtake you. So, let’s go to Jesus and let him work out all this ‘ish”.
When I say I’ll be praying for you, I’m telling you that you’re not alone. I want to taste your sorrows on my tongue and gnash your offenses in my teeth. I want to feel the heartburn of your broken dreams. I want to spend the night massaging the ache of your losses and if you’ll let me, hold you close while you wet my shoulder with your salty tears. I want to carry your cross for a while. I want to die to my comfort for the sake of yours. Praying for you is the beginning to true solidarity.
When I say I’ll be praying for you, I’m telling you that you matter—not your juicy drama, not the way your confidence makes me feel all gooey and needed, not even the connection to Kingdom work this prayer time invokes—You matter! My sister, my brother, my friend—you matter. You, an image bearer—a precious reflection of God to me— are so profound and so stunning that nothing less than wholeness should be yours. In fact, your pain, truly ticks me off. When I say I’m praying for you, I’m telling you I want more than this war-torn world for you. When I say I’m praying for you, I’m asking you to take me hand and let’s run to the throne of grace through the crossfire and if we get hit—we get hit together. Then we’ll let Jesus heal us—together!
When I say I’m praying for you, you better expect texts and corner of the sanctuary check-ins, Facebook messages of Scriptures that might mean something to you and care packages at your door, because gossiping and meddling go hand-in-hand. This is holy meddling, my friend—I’m so sorry and you’re welcome.
When I say I’m praying for you, you better expect Jesus to show up, not because I’m super holy—check it— Jesus and I talk and Imma talk to him about you! But because we’re super holy, this space is SUPER HOLY—check it— where two or more are gathered in his name Jesus is there in our midst and when we are unified in his presence, great and wild things happen. Joy is found, hope reclaimed, questions re-framed, Shalom restored.
Don’t you worry, Boo— Jesus has got this.
So, today know this: I’m praying for you, generally for blessings and God’s love to fill you right this very second, but I wanna pray more specifically.
You know, you would be doing me a favor, since I’m got a plethora of words bubbling in gut, begging to be spoken and if I don’t talk about something I might be forced to talk about Jay-Z and Solange and #WhatJayZSaidToSolange. Won’t you could help a poor gossip turned Kingdom girl out and share…
How can I pray for you, today?
And know this too, I promise with all my heart that today, tomorrow, this week, and for as long as Jesus reminds me to, I’ll be praying for you.
Praying for your Shalom today,