During the DAPL protests, I kept apprised reading articles posted by our local news agencies on Facebook. I quit reading the comments after only a few weeks, because they were so infuriating.
The ones that bothered me the most said, “I will pray for you.”
Now why, as a Christian, would that bother me? Aren’t we supposed to pray for each other, and welcome prayers on our behalf? Truth is, that phrase raises my hackles more often than it doesn’t. I couldn’t pin down why for the longest time, to the point I wondered if I should question my faith or lack thereof. If my faith was strong, there should be no reason prayers for me and to me should bother me.
A few weeks ago during Wednesday night church groups, I overheard a teacher for the teenage group say, “There’s a difference between praying for someone and praying at someone.”
Too often, when people say, “I will pray for you,” they make themselves the subject, and me the object. They make it about them – to attempt to show how righteous they are, and how unrighteous I am. It’s based on the assumption that I need, and want their prayers.
I also had to ask, did Jesus ever say, “I will pray for you,” especially during or after an argument with someone? I don’t recall a single instance.
There is another side to this coin, however. If I ask for prayers, then that phrase “I will pray for you,” is more than welcome. Also, if I didn’t ask for it, but people decide to pray for me without telling me, well, I can’t exactly stop that, can I? Not that I’d want to. As long as the people praying feel compelled to pray, and are sincere in their prayers (with humility, not self-righteousness), I have no problem with it.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:1, 5-6:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven … And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I can’t stop anyone from praying, publicly or otherwise, humbly or otherwise. In the end, it’s not up to me to decide whose prayers are sincere. That’s between them and God. I do think, however, that when we decide to pray for someone, we need to be honest in our motives. Both in prayer, and every other means of expressing our faith, we should also do as Jesus did, and not make spectacles of ourselves.