Growing up in the church, I have heard and spoken the words "I'll be praying for you" countless times.
And admittedly, when I've muttered those words, I've often forgotten to follow through.
So a few years ago when Miss Lisa (now one of my "spiritual mothers") reached out her hands and first spoke those beautiful words...
"Can I pray for you?"
I remember being completely caught off guard.
She's going to pray for me...right here? Right now?
"That'd be great," I said. My mind still reeling from the idea of someone taking the time to pray WITH me instead of promising to pray FOR me at a later date.
Over the past few years, that scene...Miss Lisa reaching out her hands as she asks if she can pray for me...has become a familiar scene in our friendship. And I am so thankful for the lesson she has taught me. Having benefitted from this practice of prayer, I find myself trying to implement it in my own life more and more.
Practicing this spiritual discipline has made me more aware of just how interconnected my bible reading and prayer truly are. When I am at a loss for words, it is often times because I haven't been in the Word recently, and I am relying on my own strength and wisdom, not God's. But when I am in the Word, I find myself praying the words of scripture I have read throughout my week.
So if I'm reading Psalm 18...
"I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies."
I might pray the following prayer for a struggling friend:
"Lord, I pray that you would be _____'s strength during this difficult time. May you be her rock and her fortress as her world is shifting. May she take refuge in you when fear and doubt come her way, for you are her shield and salvation. God, you are strong when we are weak. In our inadequacies, let us see how adequate and satisfying you truly are. I pray that ____ will call out to you when she feels overwhelmed, and that when she does, you will comfort her and be the strength that she needs..her stronghold. Lord, you are worthy of all our praise and admiration. Praise be to you! Amen."
If I am at a loss for words, though, I've learned that it's okay to pause (a humbling lesson for me to learn), and that it's okay to just be in the presence of the Lord with a fellow believer. From my own experience, on the receiving end of things, I can tell you that when you're hurting, it's not so much about the words that are being prayed, but that they're being prayed for you in the first place (please don't take that to mean that words aren't important...they are, but I implore you not to let a momentary loss for words preclude you from praying for someone in need of prayer).
All that to say that while the words "I'll be praying for you" are sometimes the most appropriate words to speak to another believer, I am a strong believer that the words "Can I pray for you?" can be a huge blessing and encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This practice of prayer has blessed me so much throughout the past few years, and I pray that as I continue to practice it in my own life, others will be blessed by those words just as much, if not more, than I have been blessed through them being spoken to me.