I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Do you?
Merriam-Webster gives a simple definition: “a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.”
The full definition?
Full Definition of hypocrite
a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
If I say I am praying for you but I don’t actually take the time to pray for you then I am putting on a false appearance of religion. I am acting in contradiction to my stated belief by stating that prayer for you is important then not following through.
If this is true for me then it is also true for you.
It’s important to me that I follow through. I want people to know that if I say I will pray I will actually pray. I want people to actually pray for me who tell me they will.
I believe that prayer is important. It is easy to say.
Sometimes it is hard to know what and how to pray for others. The phrase “I’ll pray for you” often follows a prayer request. In these cases the content of our prayers may be easier to focus.
The same phrase can simply be used in some Christian circles as a generic greeting or goodbye. In this sense it is just like saying, “Hi! How are you?” to someone. Most of the time if you actually started to tell someone how you are doing they would look at you like you are a crazy person. In this sense some think this is an acceptable phrase to toss around casually without requiring them to actually follow through with real prayer. I am not one of them.
I never want to use that phrase in the second sense. Ever. Quite frankly, I don’t want anyone to use it when talking to me, either. If people say they are praying for me I want them to actually pray for me. I can use all the prayer I can get.
No offense, but so can you.
I love how the Apostle Paul tells the believers in Colossae that he is praying for them. Paul did not plant this church. Epaphras did. Paul had only heard of their faith and love toward the saints.
Paul wrote them a letter to tell them that ever since he heard about their faith in Christ he started praying for them.
We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints. (Colossians 1:3-4)
Paul wasn’t hearing their prayer requests. He wasn’t giving a generic greeting. Paul was speaking truthfully. He wasn’t a hypocrite.
His desire to pray faithfully, fervently, and joyously for Christians that he hasn’t even met is humbling to me. I hope it stretches you, too.
What is particularly instructive is Paul’s declaration of what he prays for them:
For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects– bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)
Let’s pray for each other.
Let’s pray that:
- God will fill Christians with the knowledge of His will
- Christians will act on that knowledge and live worthy of Him, pleasing Him in all respects
- Christians will bear fruit in every good deed
- Christians will grow in the knowledge of God
- Christians will be strengthened with all power to display His glory and character in the world
- Finally, giving thanks that God has delivered all of His people (not just the members of our local congregation) from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son, Jesus.
If Christians were to pray for each other in this way what would be the result? What do you think that praying faithfully, fervently, and joyously like this for the church could accomplish?
I’d like to find out. How about you?