When people share issues of concern in their lives, have you ever heard this response by the listener: “I’ll keep a good thought,” or “I’ll keep you in my thoughts”? When I hear that expression, I always assume that the person is trying to be benign and politically correct, instead of saying “I’ll pray for you.” What good does it do to merely think about a person’s problem? Can simply thinking attract the solution—or access the power—for the desired result? I think not!
Of course, it is equally non-productive to say you will pray for someone (not just think about them) and then not actually pray. Unfortunately, “I’ll pray for you” has become as ineffectual as “I’ll keep a good thought” because of a lack of follow-through.
This story graphically describes how sad a lack of prayer follow-through can be:
Bill Lacovara was fishing on the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, when he spotted a plastic bag floating in the water. Inside, he found about 300 prayers that had been mailed to a local pastor—most of which were unopened. The pastor had died two years earlier, and authorities speculated that the letters had been dumped as garbage after his house was cleaned out.
Some of the prayers were rather frivolous. For example, one man asked that God help him win the lottery…twice: ‘I'm still praying to hit the lottery twice,’ he wrote. ‘First the $50,000—then, after some changes have taken place, let me hit the millionaire.’
But many of the letters were heartbreaking. They came from anguished spouses, children, and widows, all crying out to God. Some prayed for relatives who were using drugs, gambling, or cheating on them. One man wrote from prison, saying that he was innocent and wanted to be back home with his family. A teenager poured out her heart on yellow-lined paper in the curlicue handwriting of a schoolgirl, begging God to forgive her and asking for a second chance. ‘Lord, I know that I have had an abortion, and I killed one of your angels,’ she wrote. ‘There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about the mistake I made.’
Lacovara was saddened that so many prayers had been tossed away, unheeded.
Wayne Perry, Associated Press (11-3-06)
Prayers that “had been tossed away…” That is an indescribable waste. Every day, at any moment—with 24-hour-per-day access—God gives us the opportunity to come to Him with even the seemingly insignificant and mundane. But there’s nothing insignificant or mundane about being able to speak with the Creator of the Universe, about anything. Do you take that privilege seriously?
Don’t toss away the privilege of praying. Take it seriously. Think about this: Your relationship to God through Christ can be traced back to the fact that people like the Apostle Paul took prayer seriously. He prayed specifically for the faith of our spiritual ancestors—the earliest church members. Had God never heard his prayers and sustained their faith, where would our faith be?
And the Apostles who walked with Jesus before Paul cared a lot about prayer. It was an integral part of their lives. They wanted Jesus to teach them to pray properly after seeing the hypocritical prayers of the Pharisees and the pagan prayers of the Gentiles. Where would we be without “The Lord’s Prayer?”
Now that you’ve thought about it, thank God for it! Take some time to pray.
“…while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’” —Luke 11:1