Recently, on the blog and in personal correspondence, I’ve noticed people tossing around the phrase, “I will pray for you,” in a way that gives me pause. There are, of course, all kinds of good reasons to pray for someone, and, come to think of it, who needs a reason? But suppose all you are praying for is that a people will abandon what they believe and embrace what you believe? What if you are praying that somehow someone can be induced to do something that that someone really doesn’t think is right?
Is this sort of prayer an end run around another person’s conscience? Does it presume that the individual being prayed for has not prayed about the issue himself or herself? Or, supposing that he or she has prayed over the issue, does it assume that your prayer is superior to theirs?
It can be argued that all someone who says “I’ll pray for you,” in the heat of an argument is saying is, “I hope God will guide you.” But it can also be argued that people who say “I’ll pray for you,” in the ways I’ve discussed is trying to enlist God’s help in shaping other people not in God’s image, but in their own.
(And if you don’t think I’m right abuot this, don’t worry, I’ll pray for you.)