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Keeping Your Prayer Promises

Easy-to-follow tips to help you follow through when you tell another, “I’ll pray for you.”

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I listened sympathetically as my friend Helen told me about her daughter and son-in-law’s efforts to adopt a four-year-old boy. Apparently the proceedings were stalled. “Please pray for them,” she concluded

“Of course I will,” I assured her.

Two weeks later I saw Helen again. “Keep on praying about that adoption,” she said.

As she filled me in on developments in the situation, I felt so ashamed. I hadn’t prayed about it even once! And I’d promised! And I cared. “This time I will pray,” I told myself firmly.

That evening, as I knelt beside my bed, I pictured Helen’s worried face. “Lord, please help Helen’s daughter and her husband to adopt that child,” I prayed. Then I moved on to personal matters. But not for long. I soon felt an uncomfortable poking somewhere in the back of my mind. A sense of unfinished business.

I stopped mid-sentence, suddenly I knew what was bothering me. It was the prayer I’d offered for Helen’s daughter. Prayer? More like a five-second commercial during the “main feature.”

I thought then of other prayer requests, of needs entrusted to me. Joyce’s hospitalization, Dan and Beverly’s plans to sell their home and relocate, my neighbor’s salvation, a missionary-nurse working in Haiti.

A disappointing pattern emerged. Often I forgot requests and needs altogether. When I did remember, I often mouthed words without consciously considering those involved.

Oh, I had excuses. Memory overload. Priorities. And sometimes I truly didn’t know what to say when I tried to pray for someone else.

Yet I cared about people, even strangers.

I wanted to help. So I asked God to help me do better on my promises to pray.

Since then, with His guidance, I’ve learned to think of my interest in praying for others not just as a “good idea,” but to treat it as a ministry. And the simple idea of looking at it as a personal vocation strengthened my commitment. Surprisingly, God also showed me that there’s more to praying for others than praying!

1. Write down prayer requests and needs in a special notebook as you learn or think of them. Use this reminder daily, so praying for others becomes a habit.

2. Zero in on details and particulars to make your prayers meaningful, less static. Try to see the spiritual, emotional and practical sides of a concern. For example, when you pray for someone who’s unemployed, ask God to bolster that person’s self-esteem. Pray that his trust in God won’t slip. And, of course, pray for positive responses to his job inquiries and to his interviews.

3. Get inspiration from Paul’s New Testament letters for the content of your prayers. You’ll find that Paul sought for others power for a fruitful Christian life (Colossians 1:10), eyes to recognize spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:18), understanding of Christ’s love (Ephesians 3:18, 19) and so on.

4. Tell people you’re praying for them. Not only does it strengthen and encourage a person to know someone else really cares about his wellbeing, but it helps reinforce your own commitment.

5. Ask God if there’s anything further you can do to help the person or people you’re praying for.

If you become known as a person who can be counted on to pray, requests and concerns will be channeled your way. That’s a great feeling. What’s more, as you watch God respond to your prayers for others, something terrific happens to your own faith and your trust in Him. They grow like grass in the spring!

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