Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When You Say You'll Pray, Do It!

When someone asks us to pray for them, I'm sure our motives are sincere. We genuinely plan on praying for them - we really do. But we don't always do it, do we? Of course not. We mean well, but sometimes the busyness of our life gets in the way, or we just plain forget, and we realize later that we didn't pray for the person who asked us.

I was reminded of this when I checked out online one of my favorite comics - Funky Winkerbean. The Columbian, our local newspaper, doesn't carry the strip anymore, so I have to go into cyberspace to find it. One of the characters made the statemant that there are three things people say they're going to do that never happen: "The check is in the mail. I'll pray for you. I'll send you a CD."

I immediately blanched when I read the middle statement - the one about prayer. Starting to get defensive, I remembered that I should look for the "kernel of truth" in all criticism. Obviously, Tom Batiuk, the creator of the comic strip, has had the experience of asking for prayer and not receiving it or being asked to pray and subsequntly not doing it himself (or he could simply be cynical to the core). Whatever the case, there is some truth in what he says.

We don't always pray for people who ask us. We should, but sometimes we don't.

One way to solve the problem is to recognize that our usual routine may not serve us well. When someone asks us to pray for them, we'll normally do one of two things: mentally or physically add it to our prayer list. Then, sometime later, we'll actually pray (hopefully!). Adding something to our prayer list mentally may not be the best course of action because the chances are good we'll forget it (especially as we get older). Adding something to our prayer list physically (writing it down) may not be the best course of action because that list, which was long to begin with, just got longer. It's the intimidation factor.

Here are a few suggestions to help us actually pray when we're asked to. If it's possible and appropriate, pray for and with the person who asks when they ask you. If you do that, you certainly won't forget! If you can't pray with them, then pray for them silently very soon after they've asked. If you're asked to pray via an e-mail, do so right after you've read the request. If you see or hear someone you know needs prayer, do it right then - don't wait until your regularly scheduled prayer time. These prayers don't have to be long or involved, but can instead conatin only several sentences. Don't neglect putting these people and requests on your prayer list, but do more than that! When we do that, I think we come closer to the ideal of "pray without ceasing."

Someday, I'd like to see the second thing on Batiuk's list removed. When someone asks us to pray, let's be faithful to do it and not give cartoonists any more fodder.


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