When We Lie about Praying for Others: Seven Thoughts

It happened on this blog. It was unexpected and revealing at the same time. Someone made a comment that, above all, he needed people praying for him. So I wrote in response, “I’m praying for you. I really mean it.” Then I paused. Why did I write “I really mean it”? Wasn’t my promise of prayer sufficient? Why did I have to add a child-like “cross my heart” promise? Unfortunately, I knew the answers to the questions even as I asked myself. I have sometimes lied when I promised someone I would pray for them. Please don’t judge me too harshly, though the breaking of the promise of prayer probably deserves such condemnation. It is not my intention to lie. It is not my intention to fail to pray for that person. I simply forget after I tell them. Again, that statement is an indictment in itself.

This confessional may seem totally strange to you. It is likely that you have not messed up in this area like I have. How does it happen? It’s not an excuse, but the situation usually works in this manner. Someone approaches me and asks for prayer. It might be right after I’ve spoken somewhere. So I tell them I will most certainly pray for them. But I don’t. I forget about their heartfelt request as soon as I start talking to the next person. On other occasions I will see someone I know. I pass them in a hallway or speak to them on the phone. I know that they are in a particular situation that needs intercessory prayer, so I make a promise: “I’ll be praying for you brother (or sister).” And, then again, I forget. I lie. I lie about something as sacred and holy as prayer.

As you can likely tell, I am convicted of this sin. I have asked God to forgive me and I have begun to make certain I don’t lie about intercessory prayer again. Here are seven steps I am taking:

  1. When someone requests my prayer, I will try to pray for him or her at that very moment. Perhaps their hearing of my prayer right after they ask will be an encouragement to them.
  2. I have begun praying that God will remind me about prayer requests. Sometimes I am too busy for my own good. God is never too busy for me.
  3. I will be honest with those who request prayer. I will not promise more than I will actually do.
  4. I will be more diligent in my own prayer time. I am convinced that one of the reasons I forget to pray for others is my lack of diligence in a focused daily quiet time.
  5. I will sometimes write down prayer requests. I use my iPhone for so many things. Why not record prayer requests? I have a reminder app, a notes app, and a voice memo app. And I finally decided to download a prayer notebook app. I have no excuse not to make note of requests.
  6. I will avoid being a Pharisee. Sometimes I really feel like I made promises of prayer because I wanted to be liked by the person making the request. That is sinful and Pharisaic. My prayers are not to please men and women, but to be obedient to God.
  7. Sometimes I will ask the person requesting prayer to send me an email. Recently I received a prayer request as I was leaving the room to catch a plane after a speaking engagement. In my hurry I feared that I would yet again forget. I let him know I was on my way out and asked him to email me. I apologized for my rush and thanked him for doing so.

I understand that this post may have little meaning to many of you. It’s very personal for me because of my own failures. I decided to write it for three reasons. First, I want to be bold enough to ask readers to pray for my own prayer life. Second, I sense a greater accountability by writing this blog. I can always anticipate a reader may ask how I’m doing in this struggle. Third, there may be a few of you who struggle like I do. Perhaps my words helped a bit.

Thanks for listening.

Thanks for praying.


  1. Michael says

    I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately as God has really pressed it on my heart on saying that I will (or that I am) and actually not at all because I would forget. I’ve been trying to pray for them on the spot now and later on if I happen to remember a particular request, I’ll stop and pray for them then.

    I’ve been keeping a journal on what God has been teaching me in the Scriptures each morning. It’s helped me a lot more than not keeping one. I’ve been consistent enough to work on it every day, I’m thinking about writing prayer requests down in it to help me remember as well.

  2. says

    Dr. Thom, I too have found through the years that the BEST thing I can do when asked to pray – or if I offer to pray – is to pray right then – right there! It usually blesses the person immensely, and keeps me true to my word. Good word today!

  3. Kris says

    Thank you for this Thom. I have actually been convicted of the very same thing lately. We often throw the phrase, “I’m praying for you” out there kind of like when we say “bless you” when someone sneezes. It sounds nice, and it may be polite, or comforting to hear, but are we truly fulfilling what we say? The thing I think is most effective is to pray as soon as the request is made. I have even asked if I could pray with the person right then, if that is possible. We certainly are human, and it is easy to forget a certain need or prayer request at times, but we do need to be more diligent to not offer up prayers for someone, if our heartfelt desire is not to follow through.

  4. Leanne says

    I think you may find this resonates with more people than you might think – I know it has certainly happened to me but I don’t think I have ever admitted it to anyone other than my husband! We live in a world where we are all so crazy busy and rushing around and dealing with so many people – not an excuse at all but a big contributing factor in why it happens. Thanks for those tips, they are very helpful and I will certainly try to use them to prevent such slips in the future. Good luck with this.

  5. Connie says

    This post is particularly appropriate for people with 100’s of Facebook friends. People are constantly asking for prayer — myself included. I agree with the suggestions to pray right then and/or to write the requests down. I know how desperate I am when I request prayer, and I’m sure my friends “out there” are in the same situation. I want so much for the people who quickly right back “Praying” to mean it and to intercede earnestly for me before the Father. I know I’d rather they wouldn’t promise to pray if they really weren’t going to. For me, the bottom line answer is to spend MORE TIME in prayer consistently.

  6. Michael W says

    I confronted this in my life a few years ago as well. This phrase “I will pray for you,” is in fact spiritual jargon or gibberish or “talking in tongues”…I jest, meaning it makes sound compassionate and spiritual regardless of our sincerity. It is a placebo to the person with whom I am responding. I believe the biggest issue is not that we lied to a person about our unfulfilled “promises.” The greater sin is what we actually don’t believe about the power of prayer and our own doubts about our prayers making a difference or being answered. If I don’t do it then, then I don’t do it.

    It brings up actually another area that I have spent a few years on…when confronted by a “need for prayer” Jesus didn’t pray. He performed the power and promise of God for that person. Jesus doesn’t pray in public like we do. He prays in private and is rewarded in public just like he calls us to.
    Thanks for praying for me, it meant more than you know, and I truly believed you did.

  7. Dale Pugh says

    Excellent thoughts, Thom. Some time ago I was convicted of this very thing myself. I determined that your #1 point would be how I could best encourage people and, hopefully, let them know the power of prayer.
    When people asked me to pray for them I would respond by praying for them. Right then. In church, at the store, on a sidewalk–wherever we were I would pray. It was, at first, a little embarrassing for me and awkward for the requester.
    As time has gone on I have found this to be a growth point in my own life. I’m sure some people still find it a bit awkward, but I’ve never had anyone turn me down when I say, “Let’s pray together about that right now.” I believe it can be a teaching moment for them as well. It has also kept me honest as a pastor.
    Thanks for your blogs!

  8. says

    I remember becoming convicted with the same issue when I attended a Kenny Marks’ concert where he performed his song “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight” and told us the story behind it. (

    At the end of a concert, a fan asked him to “say a prayer” and Kenny agreed. When Kenny saw the news of this fan’s suicide a couple days later, he remembered that he had the best intentions to pray for Richard, but never did.

    This tragedy changed the way he looked at prayer… His story and song changed the way I look at prayer.

    Thanks for reminding me about caring for others AND being a man of my word.

  9. says

    Dr. Thom–thanks for allowing us to hear your heart’s desire on the subject of prayer. As a pastor, people stop me most every Sunday asking for prayer. It is easy to forget once you get caught up in all the many responsibilities. Years ago I implemented many of the steps you listed above. Having them write it down, text, or email me seems to have worked the best.

    As shepherds we want so desperately to help the sheep which God has entrusted into our care. Regardless of how they cross our path, when they have wounds that need binding we want to feel like we gave it our best attention possible. Sometimes, that care comes later when you can sit down and quietly take them before the throne when your full attention is on their need.

    Thanks again for sharing and all you do in helping equip the saints to “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

  10. says

    This is an excellent article that I will be forwarding to the Church! I have struggled with the same thing. Being a pastor, I am bombarded with request for prayer. Rightly so. The people I pastor ought to expect prayer from their pastor and their pastor should be spiritually stable enough to partner with them in prayer. I have done many of the same things you listed in the article. I recently went a step futher and implemented a “Communication Card”. I ask that everyone fill it out during every sercice. God has really used this to help me pray for the people I pastor. I keep the cards with me at all times. They include prayer request, request for more information, and any other situation they may have. It helps me to remember to follow up with the request as well. Thanks for the article brother!

  11. Heartspeak says

    Thanks for your transparency! That is a sign of true leadership. My wife taught me this a few years ago. Pray now with the person whether on the phone or in person. I’ve also begun to ask a followup question when I’m asked to pray for someone. How do you want me to pray? Much like Jesus asking what do you want from Me? It demonstrates that you’re taking the request seriously. It also often leads to more in depth conversation. Interestingly, many folks don’t really even know how they want you to pray, or how they would pray. It provides both a teaching moment that can be memorable and the conversation isn’t so easily forgotten.

  12. Lindsey Morris says

    I felt the same conviction when I started working with international students. In our culture, so many things are simply polite to say–how are you? (Yet we keep walking–if we really wanted to know, we’d stop and listen.) The same goes for saying “I’ll pray for you.” I really felt convicted about doing that. I once heard that “prayer is the real work; everything else is the clean-up.” We should take it very seriously when we offer to pray for someone. Love this post–especially the action steps! Thanks for sharing and for being so honest! :)

  13. O'Nealya says

    Being on the ministry staff at church and heavily involved in so many areas of ministry this happens to me as well. Too many times, I’m afraid. Thank you for your transparency and humble words. They both convicted me as well as encouraged me. I have my iPhone on me at all time and I too use it for everything. I love the idea of using a prayer journal app – going to download ond right now. Thanks so much for the idea!

  14. Christopher M. Webb says

    Thanks Dr. Rainer. This blog serves as a reminder of how God taught me during my time as I served as a Hospice Chaplain. During my nine years of serving, God revealed to me the importance of following through with the prayer request from others. I’ve learned never to take for granite the moment of opportunity we have to intercede on someone else’s behalf. Thanks so much for posting!

  15. Jason says

    You know Bro. Rainer….. You have touched on an issue that I believe is so very prevalant in todays churches adn Christianity as a whole. You were courageous and honest enough to share your own shortcomings and asked via this blog for help and accountability…. I belive that is the Christian thing to do. I too struggle with this and using the iphone, email or other “reminders” are only effective if the heart is willing to set aside the time. That is key, becuase we can fulfill our promise to “pray for one another” with a hurried and rushed “canned” prayer. Which is in no way effectual… Our churches would change and our society would change if at the moment of request we earnestly, honestly and openly proceeded to the throne of God in prayer… Lifes would be impacted and changed…..

  16. Becky says

    I think this happens more often than we think. Reading this certainly made me realize I am guilty of this at times. Thanks for your transparency and the reminder.

  17. Sheila says

    Dr Rainer, Thank you so much for sharing. I do believe there are many of us that do this very same thing. And I believe that this will help us all remember to be more diligent. Thank you for leadership and may God continue to Bless you and the work He has called you to do.

  18. Todd Benkert says

    I think the first one is a practice that we need to return to — I love it when I know people are praying for me, but it’s an even greater blessing when someone prays for me WITH me.

  19. says

    Your first recommendation is fantastic:

    “When someone requests my prayer, I will try to pray for him or her at that very moment. Perhaps their hearing of my prayer right after they ask will be an encouragement to them.”

    That is precisely what I have found solves most of my lingering guilt about not praying for others. I am simply overwhelmed at the need I encounter in any given week of ministry. Taking even a moment to minister directly to someone’s need in prayer is often the most effective and powerful thing we can do.

    Thank you!

  20. says

    I set the alarm on my phone at the time of the persons birthday that requests prayer from me. It creates a bond between me and that person and I think it tells them that its happening.

  21. Macsimillian says

    Why not just post an actual prayer. You know something like, “Lord God Heavenly Father, I pray that through your Divine Will the best will come of this situation. And that no matter the outcome we know that you are Lord over all, that all things happen for the good of God’s people and those who love Him. Grant peace for the struggling, Hope for the weak, and understanding of your Divine Will through it all. We ask all of this in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

    That effort (if sincere) doesn’t require that much time or thought….how lazy are we that we marginalize prayer and our genuine concern for one another to simply say “praying” — take the time to do it :: otherwise, you may as well say some other meaningless nonsense (as stated above) *hugs* *awww*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *