I’ll Pray About That–Really?

“I’m so sorry about you losing your job and your car breaking down. I’ll be sure to pray about that.”

“I’m sorry to hear about all your troubles, Sarah. I’ll pray that someone helps you out.”

“I need repairs to my house. I’ll pray about that.”

Ever wonder about the person whose response to people is, “I’ll pray about that?” Or, in my long career I’ve come across several business leaders whose response to business problems was, “I’ll pray about that.”

Shane Claiborne, one of the authors of Red Letter Revolutions: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?, wrote, “But sometimes when someone says, “I’ll pray about that,” it is code for “I’m not going to do anything else for you.”

Prayer is good. It is part of a spiritually disciplined life. Especially when it goes beyond the idea that God is the Great Vending Machine in the Sky dispensing good things to those who meet his criteria.

Claiborne continues, “If we hear someone asking for prayer over and over because they need work done on their leaky roof, we should keep praying, but we might also get off our butts and get some people together to fix the roof! When we ask God to move a mountain, God may give us a shovel.”

I have witnessed the power of prayer. I’ve seen healing when doctors thought it impossible. I’ve seen lives change.

But, I’ve never seen prayer “work” when it’s obvious that God wants us to work.

We can pray about the devastation in Haiti (remember that? how soon the news media moves on and we forget about things), or we can raise money for supplies. Or maybe we have a medical or other specialty where we can go and work. And pray for success at the same time.

Or, we can pray for someone and bring a meal. Or pay for a repair. Or take them to lunch.

Let us resolve not to use “I’ll pray for you” as code for “Let me out of here before I have to actually do something.”

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