Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about the importance of not letting your promise just be a promise or your words just be words.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone: after hearing about something someone is going through or hoping for or is in need of guidance about, I tell them I’ll pray for them.

And then I…don’t. I forget.

Most of us who do this do it with the best intentions to actually pray. But at the same time, “I’ll be praying for you” has in some ways also become a phrase without meaning—a pat answer when we’re at a loss for anything else to say.

But our words are important. As is the promise of prayer. And I’ve come to realize it’s better not to say anything at all than to promise to pray for someone only to let that promise fall by the wayside—especially if you really didn’t intend to pray about it at all. Prayer is powerful, it’s vital, it’s important—we should not waste the opportunity to do it. Nor should we promise that we will and neglect that promise.

I write these words to myself as much as to anyone else: whatever it takes, we need to hold to our word when we promise people we’ll pray for them. We need to stop and pray in the moment we make the promise, and then we need a way to remember to do it again, and again, fervently and often.

Maybe it’s:

  • Reminders on your phone
  • A post-it note on the bathroom mirror
  • An entire prayer board hung in the office
  • Joining a prayer email group or prayer fellowship where you pray about things together
  • A hand-written list
  • Praying with a spouse and reminding each other

Whatever you need to do to remember to pray for the things you promise, I deeply encourage you—I encourage me—to do it. To not let prayer simply become a fill-in-the-blank for when we’re out of our depth, but to be forever mindful of what an important promise we are making. And then stick to it.

I say this to others. I say it to myself: Don’t tell me you’ll pray for me unless you really intend to do it. Those prayers matter to me. They matter to others. And we need to make sure we are giving them the weight, the attention, and the respect they deserve.