I remember the days in middle school where I would run in the door, wait ten minutes for our 30-pound computer to boot up and another five for the infamous AOL dial tone to let me know I was connected to the World Wide Web.
Once on, I would jump straight onto AOL Instant Messenger and see if any of my friends—who I had just seen at school—were online. But what really sent my heart soaring were the glorious words, “You’ve got mail!”
Today, I groan a little inside when I see my email inbox full, mostly with junk email from stores where I’ve made one purchase. Getting an email just isn’t as special as it used to be. But in a strange reversal, I love opening my physical mailbox and pulling out an envelope hand addressed to me.
What made middle-school-me thrill at an email from my summer camp pen pal and current-me excitedly open a handwritten notecard? It’s the same desire—to feel remembered. To know that someone took the time to boot up an old computer or find a stamp just to let me know they care for me.
While prayer is intimate communication between a person and God, it’s also a way to unify and encourage believers. One way to do this is to let others know you are praying for them and what specifically you are praying. This is not a boast about your prayer life, but a way to love others through your intercessions. Paul spoke about his prayers to almost every church to whom he wrote:
“…that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers…” (Romans 1:9-10)
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16)
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” (Philippians 1:3-4)
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you…” (Colossians 1:9)
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2)
“…as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” (2 Timothy 1:3)
“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.” (Philemon 1:4)
Why did Paul think it necessary to let these churches and individuals know that he was praying for them? Paul was not boasting about his vibrant prayer life but encouraging the believers that they are not alone. Paul is fighting alongside them in their spiritual journey through his prayers. He is reminding them that God is at work, and he is spurring them on to pray these same prayers for themselves and others.
For the same reason I love to know someone took the time to send me a letter, letting someone know you are praying for them shows that you care for them in the deepest way. You are fighting their spiritual battles with them. They know that when they share a struggle with you, you are taking it to the throne of Heaven and claiming God’s promises on their behalf. It is the pinnacle of unity in the Body of Christ when we pray for one another and tell each other of God’s faithfulness through our prayers.
So how can you let others know that you are praying for them?
1. Send them a verse you have specifically been praying.
I can picture it in my mind so clearly. Early in the morning, my sweet grandmother sitting in the window seat of her bay window, looking out over her backyard, wearing a cute cardigan. In her lap sits the thickest of notebooks with sticky notes poking out every which way. Her eyes are closed, and I know she’s praying.
How do I know this? For one, I’ve seen it when I’ve visited. But I’ve also been reminded of this picture on countless occasions when I’ve woken up to a text from her. She’ll let me know that she’s praying for something specific that I’ve shared with her and the Scripture she prayed for it that morning.
This does two things in my heart. It encourages me to know that my grandmother thought of me, reminding me that I am not alone in my struggle.
It also reminds me of God’s promises. Sometimes when we’re in the midst of a struggle, we can’t see God working. By sharing a passage that relates to their prayer request, you are shining the light of truth into their situation. You are giving them the tools to continue to fight their battle with the strength of God’s Word.
This can be as simple as a text, or you can send them a note reminding them of your prayers with the verse written on a card. Either way, you are providing them with a visual reminder of the power of prayer.
2. Remind them how you have seen God work in their lives.
Because of my grandmother’s influence on my life, I have been keeping prayer journals since I was in college. I have many old notebooks stashed in my desk, and I like to periodically take them out and think back over my past prayers.
Sometimes my prayer requests make me laugh (physics tests seemed like such immovable mountains when I was 18), but it also deepens my faith to remember how God has time and time again answered my prayers. But if we’re not looking, we may miss his faithfulness. That’s why it’s important to not only pray for others but to celebrate with them when God answers.
One of the sweetest memories of this practice is at the rehearsal dinner of a close friend. I had been praying for this friend for years while she went through a difficult relationship. We prayed together for restoration, for God’s blessing, for guidance. But ultimately, it was God’s will for that relationship to end. She was heartbroken, but I prayed for her throughout the heartbreak. And a year later, here I was, a bridesmaid at her wedding to a godly man neither of us could have envisioned when we were praying for that difficult relationship years before. As a gift, I photocopied the prayers I had written for her during that difficult season. I checked each of them off, because God had provided in a way beyond our imagination. This encouraged her prayer life, deepened her faith, and caused her to rejoice even more in the faithfulness of God.
3. Regularly ask them how you can be praying for them.
While there are good general things we can pray for each other regularly—wisdom for decision making, comfort in suffering, boldness in Gospel proclamation—we should be intentional about praying for specific requests in others’ lives. Some of these specific requests may be obvious, but we will never know how to pray for the inward spiritual struggles if we do not ask. While we may know that a friend is suffering with an illness, we do not know what lies the enemy is tempting her with unless we ask.
The simple question, “How can I be praying for you?” again has a two-fold effect. You are letting them know they are not alone, promoting unity in the Body, but you are also subtly pointing them back to Christ with whatever their struggle is.
It’s so simple. It takes a few seconds. That person who just popped in your head—close your browser and open a text. Let them know you’re praying for them today.