For some Christians, the promise of praying for clarity for another is too often a way to just shut down a disagreement. But prayer shouldn’t be a ‘threat.’
Because I follow some pastors who are better classified as “progressive” than “traditional” or “conservative,” I see it happen all the time: people who disagree with the interpretation of the pastors’ or some of their other followers will chime in that they’ll be praying for the person for whom they disagree.
I wrote about this back in 2013, after Jayson Bradley wrote that, “I’ll Pray for You” is one of three phrases Christians should stop relying on.
Unfortunately, too many Christians don’t appear to be willing to give up the phrase (or the tactic) when there’s a disagreement. They prefer, it seems, to hurl the “I’ll pray for you” phrase at someone with whom they disagree at their most close-minded moments, as if that promise to lift someone up is really a threat.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think prayer was meant to be used that way, especially when you’re praying to the God who told us the greatest commandment was to love Him with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.
If that’s the most important thing we can do, it shouldn’t be about winning an argument, should it?
There’s something quite condescending, not loving, in making such a statement. I think those who use the phrase that way intend to be condescending; I have no doubt on that.
I wonder if they realize, though, how arrogant and boastful a message they’re sending in making such a statement. When pride gets in the way, when you start boasting, that’s a problem, too. Proverbs 11:2 makes it pretty clear:
Proud and boastful people will be shamed, but wisdom stays with those who are modest and humble.
What I’ve never really understood is how these people can be so certain that their way of interpreting things is the only way to interpret things.
This would be a better statement to say.
If these people could set aside their arrogance long enough to consider that they may not have all the answers, we might have better religious discussions. Christians love claiming that the Lord works in “mysterious ways.”
Yet they never seem willing to acknowledge the possibility that God might just be working in one of those mysterious ways in presenting them with someone with a different take so that God can communicate to the “prayer warrior” about how their thinking might be off.
We can’t know everything God might do to send us a message when we need one.
The better thing to say when you’re in a disagreement and you’re feeling desperate enough to unfurl the prayer flag is something like this: “I don’t agree with how you’re interpreting things, but I’ll pray that God opens both our hearts to what He would have us do.”
First, it communicates a more genuine, loving message, which would seem to be in line with Jesus’s own teachings. And second, it acknowledges the possibility — no matter how remote you may think it is — that you may not have all the answers.
It may not end the disagreement, but it at least shows mutual respect.
That shouldn’t be too much to ask.
And let’s face it: if the other person’s interpretation happens to be more correct than yours, and you really want to follow God’s will, you should want to hear from God right away that something you think you know beyond any doubt is itself on shaky ground.
If you don’t, and you just want to be right no matter what, you, friend, are the problem.