What I Mean When I Say I’m Praying For You

 

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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,

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10 thoughts on “What I Mean When I Say I’m Praying For You

  1. I like your take! I find myself saying “I’ll pray for you.” for three reasons. 1) I mean it. 2) I want the other person to know I’m a believer. 3) I want them to shut up about their problems. Number three is evoking God to stop a conversation and it is unacceptable. Now I have confessed it. And now I’ll confess I feel that “it’s time for you to shut up so I’m going to tell you that it’s up to God, when really I’m done dealing with you but I want to sound SUPER holy.” when people have said it to me. Christians. SMH. What are we gonna do with ourselves? Lean on the mercy of God, and fail together, that’s what.

    • Yep, leaning in is where it’s at! And yes, I’ve been guilty of number three, especially when I feel at a loss for something to say or I just can’t connect to the person’s need.

  2. Osheta is it OK to share this with my Bible Study? We have had this discussion before about saying things just to say them and how this feels to us (guilty) and others.Thanks so much for your words.

  3. I am at work and you moved me to tears. Pray that God heals the division among my children, that he gives them direction and strength. Pray that I can mother adults and preteens and children at the same time and not lose my mind because I am alone. Pray that loneliness and poverty don’t consume me and that I find him in my hurt and broken places. Pray that all the dreams, longings, desires to make this a better place and to see people be better don’t get drowned out in the sometimes tragedy of daily living. Thank you for a willingness to pray because sometimes those of us who should can’t.

    • Jesus, I hold Shanika close to my heart today and ask you to hold her close to yours. You are our peace, so I ask you that she finds peace in the midst of conflict in her kids, worries about finances, and fears about her future. Jesus, you have great dreams for her. She see Shanika and you see the incredible ways you’ve gifted her. You see her heart that longs for wholeness and I pray you give her hope that things will get better. I pray for community, friends, and family to gather around her and speak truth where she’s tempted to listen to lies. I pray God for a great demonstration of your faithfulness and please do something to make her smile. Delight her Lord and let her find joy in you. In your Name, Jesus….AMEN!
      I’ll keep praying, Shanika…please keep me posted.

  4. I’ve always felt very weird saying this at all. In fact I’m more likely to write it than say it and even that doesn’t happen very often. No one round me, outside of this virtual community, says it ever. At least no one under 80!

    But I like it when people ask for prayers and I’m trying to reply that I will pray for them because like you I do believe in their power and intercessory prayer is something that feels real and important to me. But what struck me was your intensity and fullness of power and love and that made this post special. It makes you special too which is why I keep reading your writing! Your faith and witness as well as your prayers make a real difference.

  5. Just stumbled upon this blog. Love your writing. This piece is great and want to share this message with others! I’m such a believer in the power of prayer; when I say “I’m praying for you” I absolutely mean it.

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