November 9, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 1 Thessalonians 5:25
Beloved, pray for us.
When people ask us to pray for them, we say “Yes” with all good intentions. But, sometimes, when life gets full, we can forget what we have promised. One of the ways to pray faithfully for others involves the simple discipline of writing down the things for which you want to pray. It can even be good to record your prayer promises in your to-do list. Something as easy as that can really make a difference in your prayerful conversation with God.
This devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
Most Christians I know regularly ask for prayer. There’s good precedent for this, of course. In the closing sentences of 1 Thessalonians, Paul and his co-writers asked, simply, “Beloved, pray for us” (5:25). Similarly, when we’re facing something difficult in life, whether at work or home, we tend to say to others, “Please pray for me.” And then, if we hear that someone we know is going through a rough patch, we often say, “I’ll be praying for you.”
There’s certainly something comforting in hearing those words. When someone tells me they’re praying for me, I feel valued and loved. I feel like I matter to someone. And I’m glad this person will be advocating for me with the Lord.
But I would confess that sometimes I wonder if those who promise to pray for me really do. I know they mean well. But will they actually talk to God about me? Will they remember to pray for me when their week gets crazy and they’re focused on many other things? Now, I would also confess that my wondering about following through on promises to pray is a result of my own failures in this regard. Too many times in my life I have said to someone, “I’ll be praying for you,” only to let their situation slip out of my mind. When this would happen in the past, I would feel guilt—appropriate guilt, especially because I was a pastor who was committed to praying for my people (and others).
A few years ago, however, something terribly simple dawned on me. A friend shared with me a difficult situation at work and I said, predictably, “I’ll pray for you.” But, as I said that, I thought to myself: “I’m going to forget this unless I write it down.” In just about every part of life, I need to write things down so that I don’t forget them. So, I figured, if I want to remember Ted’s need for prayer, I should write it down now.
At that moment I took out my to-do list (which lives in my mobile phone) and made a task for myself called “Pray Daily.” The first item of that task was: “Ted’s work situation.” Then I set things up so that note would show up each morning on my to-do list.
The next morning that reminder note popped up in my to-do list. So I asked God to help Ted in his work situation. That was it, until the next day when I did the same thing. I did it again and again, faithfully and gladly. I didn’t stop until Ted’s challenge had passed. As I considered what I had done, I thought that writing down my prayer commitments and putting them in my to-do list was such a simple, obvious thing to do. Why, I wondered, hadn’t I done something like this years ago? I don’t have a good answer to that question. But ever since that experience I have regularly recorded my prayer promises and, for the most part, been faithful in following through on them. This is evidence of God’s grace in my life and for this grace I am grateful.
I’m sure that some of you who are reading this devotion are stunned that something so obvious as this eluded me for so many years. You already have well-developed habits that help you intercede faithfully for others. So you find it hard to believe that this isn’t common to all Christians. If you are such a person, I commend you for your faithfulness and prayerfulness. Way to go! Keep it up!
But I actually do know many Christians who struggle to intercede for folks in their lives who need it. If they were to hear Paul and his colleagues ask, “Beloved, pray for us,” they’d have every intention of doing so. But then, in the busyness of life, they’d forget to pray as they had planned. I’m guessing that quite a few Life for Leaders readers can relate to this.
If you’re such a person, you already know what I’m going to suggest. Use some kind of technology to record your prayer commitments. It might be pen and paper. It might be your mobile phone. It might be your calendar or your computer. The kind of technology doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you record what it is that you want to pray for in a place that you will access daily.
In the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that interceding faithfully for the people I care about makes a real difference. Oh, I’m quite sure that my prayers matter to God, and that’s the most important thing. But consistently praying for people helps me stay connected to them. It reminds me of how much I love them. And, along the way, it keeps my own heart more receptive and tender. Plus, when I learn about how God has answered my prayers for others, I can join in their rejoicing in a way that encourages my own faith.
How are you following through on your promises to pray for people? If your track record is good, why? If not, why not?
Do you record your prayer promises in a place that you will regularly see? If so, how does that work for you?
Do you have any negative feelings about keeping a prayer list? If so, why?
If you haven’t been recording your prayer commitments in a handy place, are you willing to try doing this for a couple of weeks? If so, then give it a try!
Gracious God, it is indeed a privilege, even a blessing to pray for the people in my life. But, as you know, I can easily forget to follow through on the prayer promises I’ve made. Thank you for how you are helping me with this. Thank you for the technology that makes interceding faithfully for others something doable.
Help me, I pray, to grow in my prayerful relationship with you. By your grace, may I learn to intercede even more faithfully and energetically. May talking with you about the needs of the people in my life become second nature, rather like breathing. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Daily Offering: Praying for Others (Numbers 28 and 29).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.