There is a temptation common to all Christians. It is a strong urge we must fight and conquer. It has nothing to do with sexual temptation, drugs, or overeating at a Golden Corral. I'm talking about the urge to say, "I'll be praying for you."
These are the most well-intentioned words we can utter as Christians. But honestly, tell me this hasn't happened to you. I tell someone, "I'll be praying for you about [insert request]," and maybe even scribble the request down on the back of a church bulletin or a napkin. Then, as the week's troubles and busyness press in, the bulletin gets lost between the pages of my Bible or the napkin accidentally goes through the wash in my pants pocket, and all of my good intentions get a good rinse cycle.
Was I wrong to want to pray for a brother or sister? Of course not. Was it wrong of me to utter those fateful words, "I'll be praying for you"? Well, no. The problem is that in my life, if I don't do something immediately, it tends to get added to a "To Do" list that stretches into last year.
In Hebrews 5-10, the writer builds a snowballing argument for the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He establishes Jesus' ordination under Melchizedek, proves Jesus' superiority to the Levitical priests, explains the New Covenant, and displays the perfection of Christ's once-for-all-time sacrifice. Finally, at the end of his argument, he reaches his climax: "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:19,21-22a).
Both at the outset of his argument in Hebrews 4:16, and at the dramatic finish in Hebrews 10:19, we find these gracious words: "Let us draw near." Here’s the point: Jesus went through all of this just to grant you access to God. After all Christ has done to provide us the privilege to enter the presence of God with confidence, will we stand sheepishly outside muttering to one another, "I'll be praying for you…"?
I was talking to a great friend the other night on Skype, and we were sharing some intimate struggles with one another, and as our conversation came to a close, I felt that urge–the urge to say, "I'll be praying for you." Here is what I did instead: I said, "Can I pray for you about this RIGHT NOW." And we did. And it was great. And then he prayed for me about my trials. How sweet was the fellowship!
We are all speeding through life so quickly that prayer often becomes a good intention and guilty afterthought. When you are with a brother or sister who is sharing a need or a struggle, pray right then and there. What's the rush? Surely you can spare three or four minutes before the throne of God in your busy schedule.
Consider the benefits:
(1) That's one less thing to add to the week's To Do list.
(2) That's one less thing to feel guilty about not doing when you come to church the next Sunday and see that person you were supposed to pray for.
(3) In that brief moment, the two of you will experience the presence of God. As John writes, our fellowship is not just with one another but also with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).
(4) The brother or sister you pray for will probably be taken off guard at first, which is always fun.
(5) After the initial shock, your brother or sister will realize that you really do in fact love them.
(6) Your brother or sister may find the courage to reciprocate by praying for you. (It's a selfish motive, I know.)
(7) You are playing an active part in promoting the kind of "praying for one another" that James commands in James 5:16, and you are helping to build the kind of fellowship among believers that John celebrates in 1 John 1:3-10.
I have never regretted resisting the urge and praying for a brother on the spot. Try it. You just might become addicted.