Praying for Others: Meaningful, or Like Reading a Phone Book?

At church this morning, someone from a local mission spoke to us.  He said that the mission needs prayers because one day is not like another, and each day it serves two-hundred meals.

Should I pray for the mission daily?  I’m reluctant to pray for anyone daily, since then it becomes perfunctory.  I used to pray for certain people each day, and it became like reading a phone book.  I also wonder when (or if) I can drop someone off of my prayer list: do I have to pray for so-and-so for the rest of my natural life?  The list could get really long if that is the case, or I would be hesitant to add people to the list!

I find it more meaningful, heart-felt, sincere, and empathetic on my part when I pray for someone right after that person comes to my mind.  For example, I heard about the mission this morning, and so I prayed for the mission then, or I pray for it whenever it comes to my mind.  I trust that God can bring to my remembrance people for me to pray for, and that any prayer that I offer can be effective.

Perhaps that sounds selfish on my part, but that’s how I pray for others, in this season of my life.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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4 Responses to Praying for Others: Meaningful, or Like Reading a Phone Book?

  1. I agree that having a prayer ‘list’ can become perfunctory. It also becomes more distant from the subject as time goes on. How can we know what to pray for if we don’t receive updates from those we are praying for?

    When I had a critical illness with a low chance of survival, my friends involved numerous prayer warriors and prayer groups to intercede on my behalf (I didn’t request this). I didn’t know those who were praying and I couldn’t update them on my condition.

    This was seven years ago. Are they still praying for me? They don’t know if I am alive or dead or if I am in greater need of prayer than before. Does God want to hear prayers infinitum after the issues have resolved?

    If they drop me from the list, does this mean they have given up? If they keep everyone on the list, it will grow to impossible length and become increasingly impersonal.

    In addition, how much detail should we include in our prayers? Doesn’t the Father know what people need without our bringing it to his attention? Does he really need our prompting to respond to people’s needs? Is someone going to die if not enough people pray for them?

    Does prayer have any impact other than letting people know we care about their situation? I have approached prayer in many ways, but now I just tell people that I am thinking of them. What more can I do than empathize?


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    All good questions.


  3. Laura says:

    Good post. Realistically, we can’t pray for everyone about everything(!), so there must be some limitations. I like your thought of trusting God to bring people to your mind that need prayer. I once had a post called “Can we please stop praying for sick people” that had some similar thoughts.


  4. jamesbradfordpate says:

    I think I remember that post, or a post that you wrote that referred to it.


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