When people say, “Please pray for me,” sometimes I’m not sure what to do with this prayer request. Many people, perhaps most of them, make this kind of prayer request without sincerity.
We occassionally have guests from Korea stay with us, and when they leave, they frequently tell us to call them when we visit Korea. But if you do get the chance to visit Korea and actually do call them, you often find that they’re too busy to meet you. You realize that they said to call out of courtesy; they didn’t mean for you to take the remark seriously. Similarly, when people ask me to pray for them, I wonder how seriously I should take their request.
“Pray for me” has become a sort of cliched request for Christians. The people who make the request don’t seem to expect others to actually pray, and the people who are asked it know this. At the end of a personal testimony, a person will often ask others to “please pray for me.” But I sometimes wonder how many people they really expect to pray in response to their request.
Even when they are sincere in asking others to pray for them, this can be a problem. Prayer is work. After I pray for someone’s healing, I feel tired. Prayer drains your energy. And serious prayer takes serious energy. We must not ask for prayer casually.
I refuse to pray for people when they visit my office without notice and ask me to pray for them. I feel like to do so would be treating God like someone who’s at my service; someone who should respond to my requests right away even when I haven’t prepared mentally. So I either ask them to come some other time or come forward for prayer during the Sunday worship service. That way, I can make sure that they are serious about their prayer request and that I am prepared.
When people ask me to pray for them, I try to determine how serious they are. If I think they’re saying it out of habit, I ignore it and say nothing. If I believe that they’re serious about it, I make a clear promise by saying something like “I will pray for you this week,” or “I will put your name on my list for people who require special prayer.”
When people ask for prayer on our website or by email, I pray for them once on the spot. When people ask for prayer concerning grave matters, I tell them to submit their prayer request in writing, detailing their circumstances that require prayer. The more detail I have, the more earnestly I can pray.
I hope that when people ask for prayer, they do so with sincerity, and when people are asked to pray, they also do so with sincerity.
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