My favorite nurse is leaving my doctor’s office to attend medical school. I’m happy for him but sad too. He has always been so upbeat and supportive of my family, and he responds to calls and questions quickly and thoroughly. I visit their office on a regular basis to manage my asthma, so I’ve followed his journey to med school for a while now. I’m going to miss him. After we saw him last week and I hugged him goodbye, I thought: I’ll pray for him. And then I questioned myself, who am I to pray for him? I only know him professionally, not personally. To me, it felt like that moment you see an acquaintance out and about, and you think you should say hello, but then you don’t know if they’ll even remember you. And you must decide whether to approach the person and risk embarrassment or stay silent and avoid the encounter. Maybe I was overstepping my place to pray for him.
I realized that I don’t question praying for those whom I know well, and I don’t think twice about praying for nameless, often faceless people, like those caught up in disasters or war. But when I didn’t know how I fit into the life of someone that I knew, but didn’t know well, I felt timid. Then, almost immediately, I felt God tell me I was being ridiculous. Why would I ever hold back a prayer? Especially if my reticence stemmed from my own insecurities. First of all, I hadn’t even told my nurse friend of my plan to pray for him, so I couldn’t actually feel embarrassed. And, it’s not like we can only offer a set number of prayers to God a week. God asks us to pray without ceasing, not to limit our prayers. I realized I filtered my prayers through an arbitrary and unnecessary thought process.
Instead of trusting God that my prayers were valid no matter my significance in another’s life, I let fear stand in the way. Praying for others allows us to support and encourage them. We ask God to comfort or care for them. That they will feel God’s presence in difficulty or in everyday circumstances. By choosing not to pray because of my misguided concerns, I was being stingy with prayer. My initial impulse was to speak words of concern for another, but my reluctance meant I did the exact opposite – I ended up caring about myself more than them. I didn’t want to feel unworthy, so I almost decided to shut down instead. As if God would ever say, why in the world is she praying for that person when she doesn’t even know them that well? God is love and welcomes every word we speak in love on another’s behalf.
I believe that when people cross our minds, we offer a sufficient prayer when we simply say “God, be with them.” And then maybe if we can, reach out, send the text, make the call, to tell them we’re thinking about them. But if we can’t because we don’t know them that well, let’s pray for them anyway.