You know the situation. You're with a friend, also a believer, and they begin to confide in you. Things aren't going as they hoped...maybe they've had a rough day, they're concerned for the health of a loved one, or they're facing a particularly tough decision.
...confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16, ESV)
You offer some kind words of advice, the best stuff you can think up on the spot. Maybe you share a story about how you’ve gone through something similar. You do your best to sympathize, empathize, and encourage.
Finally the conversation begins to wrap up, and you say, “I’ll be praying for you” and that’s that (if we’re honest with ourselves we might realize we often forget these promises).
But what if that wasn’t the end? What if you made it your habit to vocalize your prayer, right then and right there?
“Heavenly Father, thank you that are with my friend. Give them guidance in this situation, Lord. Protect them and reveal yourself to them by your Holy Spirit. For Jesus' sake, Amen.”
These short, sweet, to-the-point “in the moment prayers” are powerful! Not only do they help to keep you in the habit of praying without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17), but you let the person you’re speaking with know you’re serious about bringing their concerns before the Lord. I think making space in our day for these prayers honors our friends and God as an act of service and love.
Honestly, I think our conversations and relationships would be transformed if we stopped talking about prayer so much, and started actually praying together like this more. When we come before God with a sincere heart, we tend to be open and vulnerable, which naturally strengthens trust between those praying together. Spontaneous prayer like this reminds us of the continual presence of God, and intentionally seeks him out in every situation.
Don’t always wait until the end of your conversation to pray. Practice the presence of God by acknowledging and inviting him at the beginning.
I’ll never forget when a good friend of mine introduced me to this practice by simply doing it…he just started praying right as we began our conversation! I had begun our talk by sharing about a choice I was having trouble with, and he immediately responded with something like this:
“Heavenly Father thanks for being here with us. Help me to know how to help Nathan, and guide our conversation in a way that is pleasing to you.”
What an encouraging, humbling way to focus our time together.
So next time you have one of those conversations with a friend desperately in need of help that only God can give, don’t just stand there. Don’t simply talk about praying.