The Little Things: Unkept Prayer Promises


It is one of the small scourges of American Christendom, but it occurs thousands of times a week across the country. This is how it usually plays out:

    Greg: "I just found out today that I'll be losing my job in a month. My company's outsourcing my entire department to Malaysia. I really need prayer."Steve: "That's terrible. I'll pray for that, Greg."

    Greg: "Hey, thanks! That means a lot to me."

    Steve: "Well, see ya later!"

And we all know what happens: Steve goes home and promptly forgets to pray for Greg—ever.

Magnifying GlassI used to be like Steve. After about the thousandth time of having a promise to pray for someone vanish into the ether that is my mind, I decided that I was dishonoring God and all the people who requested prayer from me. What's worse, there were times that my promise to pray was the equivalent of saying, "Fine!" whenever anyone asked me how I was doing. It was something to say, even if I didn't truly mean it.

There is a silver lining to the cloud, at least for me. I changed. I stopped telling people I would pray for them after the fact.

"But, Dan," you say, "what kind of barbaric response is that? What a heathen you are!"

Say what you will. I just told people that I knew myself too well and that I had a better idea: I'd drop everything I was doing and pray with them right then and there.

So that's what I do now.

See, there's one thing people who need help and request prayer want to know in their heart of hearts, and that's the reassurance that you actually did pray for them. By dropping everything I'm doing in the moment to pray with someone, I accomplish three things:

  • They see, and therefore know, that they have been prayed for.
  • Both of us enjoy the face-to-face relational aspect that prayer builds in both the one receiving prayer and the one praying.
  • God is honored in that faithfulness to pray and hears that prayer.

For me, I know that I have never failed to forget to pray for someone who asked me to pray for them—because I did it right then. Do I remember to pray a second time or more after that initial prayer? Sure. But even if I do fail to remember to continue to pray, I know that I did at least once, and so does the person I prayed for. That makes them more likely to come to me for prayer in the future, as well.

I don't claim to do everything right, but this one I learned the hard way.

This is such a little thing, but it makes all the difference. If we honestly believe God moves through prayer, then it is my prayer that we all consider keeping prayer promises to people by just sitting down with them and praying right off. Anything that happens later is a bonus.

Now if I could just remember to get back with people I prayed for to see what the results of that prayer were! (That's just as important, but I'll have to leave that little thing for a later post.)

Have a great week.

9 thoughts on “The Little Things: Unkept Prayer Promises

  1. Great post Dan – this is so true and I think many of us are guilty of saying this – thank you for your practical thoughts – something that will help me when I go to say those words.

  2. There used to be a woman that my wife and I went to church with that would break into prayer for people in the middle of conversations and we would joke about it at home all the time.
    It would go something like this,
    you: “How did it go at the store?”
    her: “I couldn’t go because my husband wasn’t feeling better. Lord Jesus I pray that you would heal him as a testimony to your everlasting love…” And it would always lead to something like, “…save the entire world. Amen.”

    We thought this was funny and at least a little bit annoying.

    What’s funny is we are now that same person that we judged. And we couldn’t be happier. When people tell us of a problem we petition God right there. I have encouraged my brother and have releived the burden to pray. Often at night my wife and I will repeat those prayers but certainly not always.
    There is nothing worse then when you say you will pray for someone, and don’t, and things turn for the worse. I hate that feeling.

    Good article.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Dan:
    I concur! I have, however, also set up a reminder system in my aol calendar that beeps and brings up prayer reminders to me every day. I find this helpful for longterm situations like illnesses or people searching for jobs, etc. Then on occasion, I send an email asking for the status on the prayer request so that I can remove it from my prayer reminder system. It’s not perfect. I often ignore it, but at least I feel I have stepped it up a notch in my commitment to pray for people. I’m going to go through them right now and send a few emails to find out how things are going. Thanks for the fine article.


  4. Gaddabout

    The power of prayer is not always in the amount of time we spend in it or the number of words we use. Sometimes, simply a quiet, heartfelt prayer reaches God’s ears just as effectively as two hours in the prayer closet. Sometimes, “God, please heal him,” or “God, please lead her to a job,” is all God needs in prayer. If all of us would remember to do at least that the moment we recognize the need, I believe God would honor that.

    I don’t think that belays the need to regularly get on our knees in earnest, but I believe that kind of prayer is more neccesary for broad kinds of searching: for our own long-term spiritual health, for the health of the Body, for the blessing of our leaders. I also believe this is how God brings revival.

  5. Gaddabout

    like carl said, and me too. Interview on Sept. 5 … sounds prospective. It could also be another low-paying dead-end journalism job. Praying this is God’s plan for me, and not my own doing.

  6. Rooted in Him

    Over the last couple of years I have come to the same conclusion: Pray when and where the need is presented.

    It took me a long time to get there because of what Jesus said about the Pharisees, about making long prayers in order to be noticed.

    Therefore, I would not pray in a public place. It is funny how our enemy will twist Jesus’s words like that.

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