Maybe I'm the only one who's done it, but somehow I don't think so. You're walking through a store when you see a friend in the next aisle. Suddenly, you remember that last week he had asked you to keep him in your prayers although you can't remember why. However, you do remember that you've not prayed for him once since then. Quickly, you send up a prayer bolt, "Lord, be with ________." About that time he turns the corner and begins walking down your aisle. As the two of you meet you ask, "How are things going? I've prayed for you."
Prayer. There are probably few things in our churches that are talked about more and done less than prayer. I don't think it's intentional. We are just so busy that few Christians are satisfied with their prayer life. We mean to pray more but it never seems to happen. Then we start feeling really convicted and vow that we are going to spend more time in prayer every day...starting tomorrow. Of course, the problem is that tomorrow comes and nothing changes.
I got to thinking about this earlier today as I was leaving my bank. I had stepped up to one of the teller's windows to make a deposit. She stepped away to do something and one of the managers came over to the window and began looking at me with tremendous pain in her eyes. She leaned forward, took me by the hand, and whispered, "Please pray for me. I am under a great deal of stress right now." I looked at her and started to respond that I would keep her in my prayers when I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit saying, "Pray now." I have prayed for people in public settings like that but not very often. I paused for only a moment and when I looked back in her eyes I knew she needed to hear me pray. I took both of her hands in mine, leaned forward and began to quietly pray for her. Only she could hear what I was saying, but it was obvious to everyone in the bank what was happening. The prayer itself didn't last but a minute or so, but I'm hopeful it helped make the rest of her day a little better. She whispered, "Thank you" and went on about her work.
A couple of years ago I was on the campus of Campbellsville University for a meeting. I passed three students on the sidewalk holding hands and praying. As I walked past I could tell they were praying for a fellow student. The fact that three college students would pray publicly for a classmate showed me they believed in prayer. These young people refused to just talk about praying; they were committed to prayer even to the point of standing on a university campus to pray publicly for a friend.
Jesus cautioned about praying in public but His warning was to those who did it for show. Other than two tellers in the bank this morning I couldn't tell you if anyone else was there or not. I didn't pray for the manager this morning to attract attention to us but because she needed prayer, and I could sense she needed to hear someone praying for her. Those three students were not attracting a crowd nor were they praying over a loudspeaker to draw attention to themselves. Like me, they sensed that prayer was needed then, not just later, and certainly not if they happened to remember to pray.
When someone asks you to pray for them they are inviting you into a very important part of their life. We need to take that more seriously. I would just encourage you at such times to be sensitive to the Spirit to determine if you should pray right then for the person. It may not always be feasible to do so, and you certainly want to respect the privacy of the other person, but if you feel led to pray then for the person, do so. Quietly. Privately. And, whether you pray then or not, be sure to keep that person in your prayers and check back with them in a few days to see how they are doing.