The Problem with Saying “I’ll Pray for You”

Brett Tubbs

Brett Wilson
Updated Jul 21, 2016
The Problem with Saying “I’ll Pray for You”
How many times have the words "I'll pray for you" escaped our lips out of habit rather than out of absolute sincerity?

"Going in for a job interview today, your positive thoughts and good vibes are appreciated!"

Throughout the past year, a version of this "good vibrations" or "positive thoughts" request makes an emergency landing on my Facebook feed at least once a week.

I understand it, I do. Especially if you’re on the brink of a new season. Something scary that puts life out on the line for you. Those moments that make you feel like you’re riding shotgun without a seatbelt. And you miss that strap pulling you in and holding you close. You like that feeling of security. 

So, you ask for people to think kind thoughts on your behalf. Which is harmless in its own right, of course. Well-intentions and best-wishes are not bad. Hoping for the best for your friends, and even enemies, can have a balm-like effect on the heart.

But, good thoughts? Good vibrations? Aside from a catchy Beach Boys tune, what could those possibly yield?

It seems that we, as the Church, as a community, have missed the rumbling new-age train. The trend asks for people to concentrate their most wonderful-Peter-Pan-thoughts on behalf of their latest job interviews, aspirations, big moves, trips to the bank or pregnancies.

Our friends and cyber acquaintances aren't asking for prayer, but something close to it. Something just shy of it. And, if we're being honest with ourselves, that's all most of us half-heartedly offer up when we learn that someone is grieving, asking for healing, or hoping for something in their lives that hasn't transpired yet.

We really only send them good thoughts.

We don’t do the hard, intentional work that goes along with it. We don’t take it a step further. We don’t write the request down. Reflect. Petition our requests to the Lord. We think about it. And we move on. Like a mental blink.

How many times have the words "I'll pray for you" escaped our lips out of habit rather than out of absolute sincerity? How many times in our lives have we cushioned our loved one's blows with those soft, dishonest words; offering them as a catch-all balm for the spiritually seeking?

This was so true of me. So often a casual offer for prayer for a friend or family member is a response to utter when I don’t really know what else to say. It’s become more of a reflex that springs from a lack of counseling skills and a hunt to fix other people’s problems, rather than a true intent to pray.

Somewhere along the way, while we weren't looking, we've replaced prayer with good intentions and forgetfulness. That broken promise is so much worse than merely asking for good thoughts – it’s spiritually lazy.

And, as I’m finding, it’s an easy habit to fall into.

We can’t blame who paint their social feeds with request for good vibes for our lack of real, earnest prayer.

These pleadings for good vibes strike me as a hope for something greater. As a desire to be a part of a larger narrative. A draw for there to be a higher power orchestrating it all – even if they don’t believe there is one, necessarily. 

Maybe what they represent is a hungering for a sense of community. A longing to know that their friends and family stand firm beside us and are rooting for us in the midst of our challenges. 

Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what prayer has the power to do? Isn’t it a force that unites us? A force that helps us grapple with the out-of-bounds events in our lives. A reminder that it’s not our thoughts or hopes that are in control of our lives. Or that grant us peace. Or that can truly answer the calls we lift to the sky.
This world we live in today needs so much more than good vibrations. It needs prayer. Loud prayer. Desperate prayer. Confident prayer.

And what's more, it needs a generation of believers who are bold enough to ask for it.

brett headshotBrett Tubbs is a Christ-loving, single, curly-haired, left-handed coffee-addict. She is a public relations writer in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Brett lives with her best friend and a Boston Terrier named Regis. You can read more from Brett at her site,, or on Twitter