Okay, today it is because I got a letter that had in its return logo:
On the back it said:
DEAR JESUS, WE PRAY THAT YOU WILL BLESS SOMEONE IN THIS HOME SPIRITUALLY, PHYSICALLY AND FINANCIALLY. ST. MATTHEW 18:19.
WE PRAY OVER THIS LETTER BECAUSE WE WANT TO HELP THIS DEAR PERSON IN YOUR HOLY NAME AMEN. PSALM 37:4
...AND PLEASE DEAR JESUS, BLESS THE HANDS THAT OPEN THIS FAITH LETTER THAN CAN CHANGE THESE LIVES, AND WE ASK THEE TO GIVE THEM THE DESIRES OF THEIR HEARTS...Really? Even if the desire of the heart of the hands that open the letter are an Islamic Jihad, a pedophilia party, or a lifetime supply of crack cocaine?
My friend Jeffrey Overstreet once remarked to an inquiry about whether or not he prayed for Hollywood celebrities with a rather caustic remark that he had a hard enough time cultivating the discipline of praying for his own family.
Really, isn't praying for someone one of the greatest things you can do? We certainly say that, yet how many people, when they hear those words actually feel glad to know it? Even Christians. Perhaps we don't feel it because, rhetoric aside, our experience of having people tell us those words is not one of experiencing a difference in our lives.
Many years ago, I made the decision to try to avoid ever saying "I'll pray for you." It seemed like an indeterminate and weaselly commitment. I was also frustrated by the number of people who would ask me to pray for someone or about something and then never follow up. I might see them days later and ask about their "prayer request" only to be met with a shrug or an embarrassed look and told they didn't know how the situation had resolved or if it had. Really "I'll pray for you" is a way of ending the conversation, without having to do any follow up. I will, occasionally tell someone "I have prayed for you" and I'm certainly open to people who want to pray right now.
My favorite part of the above prayer is the scripture reference. I love how the pray-ers tell Jesus not a prayer but THAT THEY ARE PRAYING. They then tell Jesus that they are praying in his name, and in case Jesus is wondering why they are praying the way they are, they provide Jesus with a nice scrpture reference from Psalms.
I'm trying to picture a kid talking to his parents (or, if the metaphor is better, his big brother) like this:
"Hey, will you bless this name in the phone book, because I want to help this person on your behalf by letting them know you blessed them..."
I believe prayer is a a good thing. I believe it helps us more than we know and is effective more than we guess. I just wish that it were more meaningful in our culture. Meaningful enough that we would toss our prayers around like advertising slogans, hoping for market pentetration rather than genuine human and spiritual connection. And I wish we would talk about praying less and actually do it more.