Be warmed and filled
Let’s say you’re out and see someone you know. You stop and ask them how they are and, instead of giving you the polite “Good. How are you?” they actually tell you. They tell you they’ve been having a rough week or month or year. They even tell you some of the details. Now what? What are you supposed to say to fill the silence after such honesty and vulnerability?
Sadly, many of us say the most spiritual thing we can think of at the moment- I’ll be praying for you.
Why do I say that’s sad? Isn’t praying for someone the best thing we can do for them? What could be better than offering to keep them in our prayers?
The problem is that, if we are honest with ourselves, we probably won’t remember to pray for them. As Paul Miller says in A Praying Life, saying “I’ll pray for you” is often “the twenty-first century version of “Be warmed and filled” (James 2:16).
God calls us to do far more than just pray for people and he certainly calls us to do more than just SAY we are going to pray for them. The next verse in James chapter 2 warns us that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” God calls us to love like he loved which is to say that he wants us to be faithful and present. He wants our love to be sacrificial. He wants us to give of our time, our emotions (in the form of empathy), our resources, and more.
And, yes, he also wants us to pray for those who are suffering. Praying is one of the most powerful things we can do for others. Waging spiritual warfare on their behalf is key. As Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms so the Israelites could prevail against their attackers, we are to be there to hold up our brothers and sisters when they are too battle-weary to wage war against the enemy by themselves. I’ve had friends do this for me. But they didn’t stop at prayer. Seeing me exhausted, they met my physical and emotional needs as well. They listened, gave of their time and resources, brought me dinner, took me out to have fun, played with my kids and more.
Colossians 1:24 says- “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” I have always liked John Piper’s explanation of this verse which you can find here but this quote sums up the article nicely:
Christ cannot personally offer himself to people today. In and through God’s people—especially missionaries—he offers himself to them. And so they fill up what is lacking, namely, the personal presentation of the sufferings of Christ in their own bodies.
When we tell others we will pray for them, I think we intend to do just that but then we move on with our lives- run our errands, finish our work, go home- and we forget. I have started to write myself a note when I tell someone I’m going to pray for them. I either put it in my phone or jot it down in my notebook. Then, when I get home, I transfer it to my prayer cards (another idea from Paul Miller). This also makes me better at following up with them to see how things are going. Because I’ve been praying for them regularly I am more likely to remember to see if they need anything and offer help.
Nothing makes me feel more loved than when someone remembers my problem and asks me about it, not just when they see me again, but out of the blue. Getting a call or message in the middle of the week because they were thinking about me and wanted to check in shows that they are invested.
So, keep praying. Just remember to follow it up with good works, too. Be like Christ to those around you and spread his love everywhere you go.
The kind of love in which people will see the atoning work of Christ is the lifestyle of believers who are willing to take risks and make sacrifices in order to bless and do good to others. – Piper