“I’ll Be Praying For You!”

Right off, I want to say thanks for everyone’s prayers on our family’s behalf during this eventful summer. An update: Narcie has finished radiation and is daily improving. There’s months of chemo to go, but she’s been in ministry every day at Gator Wesley and across the United Methodist connection as a leader in Campus Ministry. She has been preaching and is overcoming the initial issues with her voice and fine motor skills. She continues in speech and occupational therapies. I am amazed at her progress and I know it is largely because of your prayers and support, and mostly Mike’s help along with Enoch and Evy, too! Narcie has been a witness for perseverance, faith, and the power of prayer! She needs more, for sure, but the Lord continues to sustain her and us! Thank you!

However, not to sound critical, but I’ve been thinking about the difference between real prayer and the ubiquitous phrase I’ve heard not only this summer, but for many years: “I’ll be praying for you.” I am sure that most people have really been praying, but this phrase sometimes comes across as a Southern way of saying, “Goodbye.” “I’ll be praying for you,” is it a greeting, prayer, or an unfulfilled intention? I don’t doubt your sincerity when I’ve heard you say it. This is about me because I need to do better and pray more! I love the old Cokesbury Hymnal song, “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” but I haven’t hit that benchmark in a long time unless you add up the cumulative minutes of my breath prayers throughout the day!

So how do I do better? I think one way is to personalize it. What I mean is that prayer is a relationship expressed in words, a give and take, with much more listening than me spouting off a list of what I or others need. Hey, if I would listen more I would probably hear the ways that God wants me to be the one to answer the prayer needs of others anyway! Comedienne Lily Tomlin once tongue-in-cheek questioned, “Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?” What’s really crazy is for us not to listen to God. It’s the difference between a soliloquy for an audience of one and a divine-human dialogue. Therefore, prayer is an art, practiced and spontaneous, speaking and listening to God, both/and, not one without the other. It is meant to be more than a conversation-ending pleasantry, “I’ll be praying for you.” It’s supposed to be a real conversation!

Someone said that prayer should be like having a date with God. Now we’ve all seen people out on dates or at least sitting across from each other at a table in a restaurant. Unfortunately we have also noticed the difference between certain couples’ conversations and others. Some talk with each other with ease while others hardly speak or don’t even look up from their plates. Someone might assume that it’s the difference between courting couples and long-married ones, but I don’t think that’s the whole story at all.

Keeping our relationships fresh is an ever necessary opportunity to grow more deeply in love. Praying to God is similar. In prayer we too often show the dispassionate nature of a stale relationship, barely looking up, just mumbling through some rote words as if they were good enough. If we talked to our spouses or dates the way we talk to God, I think a lot of us would be in big trouble. Listening attentively and speaking passionately about things together is what makes communication the number one ingredient in successful relationships.

Likewise with God and us! We make time for everything else, don’t we? I know some people who spend more time sending and answering their email than praying. I heard of one mother who said, “I had been teaching my 3-year old daughter, Caitlin, the Lord’s Prayer. For several evenings at bedtime, she would repeat after me the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. I listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer: ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ she prayed, ‘but deliver us from email. Amen.’” Yes, God deliver us from email or evil – anything that might get in the way of our time in prayer.

We should resemble the monks from California that Barbara Brown-Taylor, famous preacher and writer, described in an article in “Christian Century.” She said, “Four times a day, a bell rang in the courtyard. As soon as it did, the brothers stopped to pray. The rest of us were welcome to join them, but it was not required. If we did not show up, then they would pray for us, as they prayed for everyone else in the world – for those who were present along with those who were absent, for those who were inclined toward God along with those who were not, for those who were in great need of prayer along with those who were not aware they needed anything at all. Prayer was their job, and they took it seriously. They prayed like men who were shoveling coal into the basement furnace of some great edifice. They did not seem to care whether anyone upstairs knew who they were or what they were doing. Their job was to keep the fire going so that people stayed warm, and they poured all their energy into doing just that.”

Let’s stoke the fire and pray! What do you say?

13 thoughts on ““I’ll Be Praying For You!”

  1. Thanks for a good illustration (Barbara Brown-Taylor) for my sermon this Sunday! By the way; “I’ll be praying for you, as I always have”!

  2. I tried to set a “date with God” every morning, night… tried most ways I could think of. I do better with a day with God. I do better praying in a moment when I feel need to. During CPE I set developing a devotion and prayer time as one of my goals. The others in my group counseled me that such a habit was just not me and that I should basically let that go– it was obviously a frustrating exercise. I have developed a good habit of reading scripture during lunch. My prayers are scattered throughout the day. Maybe that makes me a lesser disciple or maybe that’s just how I function. Don’t know. But know this, if you ask me to pray for you in response to a question I ask such as “What can I do for you?,” I will pray with you and for you right where we are. Because, I too suspect that when most people say they will pray for someone it doesn’t happen. So, I prayed for you just now.

  3. Thank you for the update on Narcie. Please know that I am talking with the Father right now lifting Narcie, you and your family up to Him. May each of you feel His comfort and love this day. Paul

  4. Posted. What would you suggest in lieu of “I’ll Be Praying for You.” When I use this phrase, I have been praying for that person/s. I am Southern as grits but never thought about it be used in a way other than just what it says “Praying for You.”


    1. Paul, Great question – maybe saying, “Do you mind if we have a prayer right now?” whether on phone, email, verbal, whatever. Thought, tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jul 24, 2013, at 10:38 PM, “A Potter’s View”

  5. What do I say? I say “Amen!” May we all take our call to pray as seriously as the monks in the story Barbara Brown Taylor shared. And so, I continue to pray for Narcie and for all of your family. She truly has been and is a strong witness for perseverance, faith and the power of prayer as you noted. She is also a strong witness to the power of love at work in a family and in the community of faith Christ has called into being. Thank you for this reflection and for your witness.

    1. Becky, God bless you and thanks for your witness! tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jul 24, 2013, at 10:45 PM, “A Potter’s View”

  6. Reblogged this on Beyond Belief and commented:
    As a seminarian I do not preach every Sunday but only as a guest when invited to do so, this happens to be a week when I have the honor of preaching as a guest at a Church not far from my home. The lectionary choices this week seem to me very different from what I have felt called to share but the reading from Luke 11:1-13 begins with the Disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. I taught a lay speaking class a few years ago about prayer and at the very beginning of the class I asked the members of the class what it was that they most wanted to learn from the class. When I heard their answer I looked for that section in the book and I had planned on making sure that I spent extra time on that section, but when I went to look up what they wanted to know it wasn’t in the book. The book was written to be used to teach Lay Speakers How to Pray in public settings, my class most wanted to know; How do we pray for a friend in need or a stranger who might be sick or lonely in the hospital or at home? I let a few weeks go by as I prayed about it myself. I had been doing that type of prayer for a very long time but I had no idea how to teach someone the confidence that they could do it themselves. FInally one night in the middle of class it just came to me to have them pray for each other. I divided the class up so that the pairs of people would know each other the least would be together and I told them they had fifteen minutes together (only seven and a half minutes each) to find out each other’s deepest prayer needs. Then they were to go off alone for another ten to fifteen minutes and write the prayer. When the class was all back together as a group each person read their prayer for the other person. WIthout fail almost all of the people teared up while they were hearing the words of prayer being said for them. When they all finished they were astonished that in seven and a half minutes another person could know them deeply enough to pray for them passionately enough to bring a tear to their eye. I had to remind them that when they visited a stranger in a hospital or a church member at home they did not need to pray when they walked in the door, they simply needed to pray before they left. Thank you TIm and Narci for allowing me to share that memory and to share your prayer needs and your prayer reminders with my readers !

    God Bless You TIm and Narci !

  7. Thank you, Tim, for having me look deeper into myself and at my words. I have a friend that will pray with me “right now”. It is such a wonderful time for us. I have done it myself, but sad to say only with those I feel truly already love me and our Lord. I will pray more, but ,I know I need to listen much more. God bless you, and your family. I am so gld Narcie is healing daily.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Emily. God bless you, tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jul 26, 2013, at 8:50 AM, “A Potter’s View”

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