Sometimes life comes at a person I care about in ways that challenge anyone’s ability to cope. When my actions, or theirs, have no power to change those circumstances, all I can offer is presence and concern. And prayer.

But when I tell someone, “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” or “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” what does that really mean? And what does that person want when they ask me to remember them in my prayers?

We all have different hopes and expectations, as we have differing experiences of prayer. But I see at least seven things conveyed when I offer to pray for you:

1)      It acknowledges the crisis and pain in your life

2)      It says that I am concerned about you, I am with you in your suffering, and I won’t forget about you when we part

3)      It recognizes that our lives are subject to things we cannot control, and that we share that position of vulnerability

4)      It reminds us both that we have access to spiritual strength that helps see us through the difficulties that life brings

5)      It holds faith in the possibility of strength and healing, in some form, through means we cannot predict or understand

6)      It points to an interconnected web of life strong enough to contain suffering and still hold beauty, meaning, and love

7)      It promises that you are not alone

A promise to pray is itself a kind of prayer, but I don’t think the promise is fulfilled simply in making it. In my next post, I’ll talk about how we might pray for someone.