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How to Tell Someone You’re Praying for Them

My prayers for a neighbor in need are full of hope. But what would I say to her about them? Should I just say nothing?

Prayer blogger Rick Hamlin

Terrible news appeared in my inbox. A dear neighbor, one of those people we run into at the supermarket or at the drugstore or at the mailbox, someone we’ve known for years, has had a medical scare.

The bad news came from a mutual friend: “She’s got a mass that looks like a malignancy. They’re still waiting for the biopsy.”

“Yuck!” I typed back. “I’ll pray for her.”

My prayers would be full of hope, full of expectancy for the very best. Doctors, happily, can be wrong. Biopsies can deliver good news. But what would I say about my prayers to her? In all those hundreds of hours we sat at the ball field, watching our sons play Little League with her husband as coach, we never talked much about the big faith issues.

How do you tell someone you’re praying for them? Should I just say nothing?

I picked up my Bible and flipped to the epistles, looking for a model. I turned to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, written some 2,000 years ago.

I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray and it’s always a prayer full of joy. Paul’s words seemed like something you could put down in an email, although they were probably written on papyrus or a tablet (no, not the modern kind of tablet). He puts his prayer right on the page: That your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. No mincing of words.

I feel as fond of these neighbors as Paul must have felt for the distant Philippians. No reason I couldn’t be as bold as he has. They would understand.

I sent an email to them, full of my hopes, underlining my affection for them, thankful for all they’ve done in our community. The rest I trust is in God’s hands.

After all, as Paul wrote in the same letter: Don’t be anxious about anything. Rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Done.

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