February 16, 1953
“All we can do is pray for you.”
Anyone who has a praying relationship with God knows that prayer is a powerful force. For that reason, these words are meant to encourage needy people. However, sometimes those who hear them become angry or upset. Since prayer is supposed to “move mountains,” why would anyone react negatively when another person offers to pray for them?
One reason might be related to the nature of their need. Usually when someone asks for help they think the person who hears the request can personally do something to relieve their problem. For instance, when I have a cut finger and go to a doctor, I do not expect him or her tell me, “Well, all I can do is pray for you.” Doctors might pray but they should treat injuries too.
For some, expressing needs can be difficult, perhaps even sound like begging. If financial reversals drained every cent I had and I became very distraught because there was no food in my house, I might go to another Christian in tears. I would certainly want them to pray that God would take care of me, but I would not turn down a tangible demonstration of care, such as tears of sympathy, a big hug, or an invitation to supper.
The Bible does say, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) If my comforter had the means and did not offer to share with me even though they prayed, I might feel they did not really care.
Another reason people spurn offers of prayer is that some do not believe their difficulties are “that bad.” For them, prayer is reserved for totally desperate situations, as if God is too busy to be bothered with minor problems. When someone suggests prayer, their first response is to minimize the situation, forgetting that God is big enough to be interested in every detail of our lives.
Finally, most negative responses to prayer come from a vague feeling that prayer does not work; God will never hear anyway because an unknown something blocks communication with Him.
While that unknown could be simple unbelief, it is usually compounded by a personal resistance towards God’s will. Psalm 66:18 says if we nurture sin in our heart, He will not hear our prayers.
That means anyone who loves their sin shuts the door on God. Of course they will not want to pray either. With no desire for forgiveness or fellowship with Him, they get upset when others even offer to pray on their behalf.
Yet God instructs people to pray. The needy person who gets angry when prayer is offered needs to examine his heart. What is preventing reliance on God? Is turning away from Him worth it?
The person whose offer to pray was rejected must to pray anyway, perhaps later when alone with God, because “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Yet prayer is seldom “all we can do.” God often meets needs through those who do the praying. So when we say, “I love you and will pray for you,” it is also important to look for ways to become part of the answer.