I correspond very frequently with a lot of very dear friends and family, and we exchange prayer requests regularly. I realized recently I'd fallen into the "I'll pray for you" trap without actually taking the time to pray.
(If you're one of my dear friends and family, and the above statement doesn't deter you from sharing prayer requests with me, don't worry. The real deterrent is coming up.)
So I started a new little private blog for myself, because nearly all of the prayer requests I receive come to me online. Now, when I receive a prayer request, I just click on my prayer blog, type out a prayer, label the post with the person's name, and presto! I'm keeping my promises. And feeling very integrous to boot.
But one day, not too long into my new super-cool prayer method, that integrous feeling vanished completely, replaced by embarrassment and shame. And I'll tell you why.
I discovered I am a judgmental pray-er! Oh my goodness! My prayers seemed so righteous and flowery and helpful when I typed them out originally, but reading through them the next day, I was shocked! They basically, in short, said things like, "Abba, please help so-and-so with thus-and-such, and help them to figure out, Abba, what I obviously already have figured out, my having the inside track on their circumstances, and my being all in-the-know about the perfect solutions to every problem in the world and all. Since You've obviously revealed to me Your divine plan for their lives, I'm sure what they really need is to do x, y, and z, just like I've always said."
Oh. My. Word!!!!
After that shocking little revelation, I found myself not wanting to pray for my friends and family because of what new ugliness it might reveal about me.
But I also noticed something else praying for them did. It took the ugly, judgmental spirit out of my heart toward each circumstance and cleansed it away.
In other words, I have no idea whether or not my prayers for my friends and family help them at all. (I haven't really sorted out the whole sovereignty of God vs. the freewill of man thing yet, and neither have you, because God has not chosen to reveal it to us.) But I do know one thing: praying for others definitely helps me. It helps me love them more, it gives me compassion for them, it reminds me of my own flaws and gives me pictures of God's grace to me which I can extend to them, and it helps me to let their stuff go, knowing I've entrusted it to the One who really does have the inside track on their circumstances and really is tuned in to His own divine plan for their lives.
So...I'm giving it another go, hopefully with less helpful tips for God and more genuine love and compassion for my fellowman. That is... if anyone will still ask me to pray for them after they read this post.