Had coffee with one of the church staff yesterday. At the end of our time I asked how I could pray for him and his family.
I always ask.
It’s a good way to let them know a couple of things. One, that I really do care about them, and not what they can do for me. Two, that I realize the nature of the battles we all fight is a spiritual one.
It also sends some subtle signals.
One, that I’m a praying person. This is a big li… untrut … exaggerati … not completely accurate. I wish I were a man of prayer, I want to be a man of prayer. I’m not… yet. When I ask folks how I can pray for them I am sincere, I really want to know. Not so I can gossip, or “be in the know”, but so that when (and if) I pray I’ll have a better understanding and focus to my prayers.
At least that’s what I tell myself.
Truthfully though, I know better. Unless I do it right then while we’re together, or immediately as I’m leaving, it probably won’t happen. You see, I’m not what you would call a gifted intercessor. I’m more in line with Abba Macarius, who when asked, “How should one pray?”, answered,
“There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one’s hand and say, ‘Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.’ And if the conflict grows fiercer say: ‘Lord, help.’ He knows very well what we need and he shows us his mercy.”
The best I can come up with is to say, like a wise man I knew, “Lord, this is what I want. Now, what do you want?”
So if I ask you how I can pray for you, tell me the truth, but don’t envision a prayer warrior on his knees for hours on your behalf. Maybe one day, but not yet.
As for now, a quick lifting of my heart in silence and hopeful, helpless dependence on God, is all I’ve got.