As a pastor, I am regularly asked to pray for individuals, both publically and privately. So we at St. Paul, Ann Arbor keep a list of all the individuals and special events that we are asked to publically pray for. Personally, I keep a list of people that I’m currently praying for in a small notebook. Both lists are quite long, and sometimes our time that we spend in God’s Word and in intercession also becomes quite long. Inevitably, people get left off of my personal list because I forget to add them. Inevitably, I forget to pray for someone or some occasion in the Prayers of the Church.
Additionally, I am often asked to pray for individuals at certain times. Someone is having a surgery between 2–6 p.m. A child is facing a serious illness and needs immediate prayer. A student is taking a difficult but important exam on Thursday morning. A family watches over a loved one who will rest in Christ within hours. These are important and timely prayer requests. Sometimes I remember and I stop to ask God to guide/heal/comfort them. Sometimes I forget in the moment, or at the particular time, or with the requested group.
Maybe you’ve forgotten to pray, too. When I forget, I feel awful. Whether I forget in public or in private, a horrible feeling plagues me. I let a family down. I didn’t follow through in my commitment to offering prayer. It’s the one thing that I could do in the situation, and I didn’t do it.
How do we handle these failures? What do we do when we forget to pray? Well, the first thing we can do is PRAY. I know that sounds like a copout—like a makeup or do-over. But that’s not it. When we realize we forgot to pray, we are remembering to pray. And there’s no better time than the present. We offer up those prayers, petitions, and intercessions in the moment we’re able. Secondly, when we forget to pray, we ask for forgiveness. As I said, I forget, and I often need forgiveness for neglecting prayer. Forgiveness is the way that broken relationships are restored. Forgiveness is the action that keeps me from beating myself up again and again over my negligence. And forgiveness points me to the third thing, and maybe most essential, we can do when we forget to pray: rest in the assurance that God is still at work. The Holy Spirit is interceding for us, and for His people, even when we forget to pray.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27 ESV).
Does God desire us to pray? Of course He does. Does He use you and me on behalf of His people when we offer prayers for others? Absolutely! But when we forget to pray, God is still at work in the lives of the people and in the midst of the occasions that we forget to pray for. He is still interceding for them, just as He is for you and me. Thanks be to God, who gives us this gift of prayer, and never forgets to pray for us!
Holy Spirit, I need your help. When I forget to pray, I feel frustrated and ashamed. I have let others down in my commitment to pray for them. Please forgive me, renew me, and restore me, both in my relationship with them and in my relationship with You. Where I fail, I pray that you would continue to be faithful. Work on behalf of your people, and then turn my heart once again to pray for You to work, and for Your will to be done. Be my reminder, so that I may be united with you in prayer for all. Amen.
Come, pray in me the prayer I need this day;
Help me to see Your purpose and Your will –
Where I have failed, what I have done amiss;
Held in forgiving love, let me be still. (LSB 769:2)
Text: © 1974 The Hymn Society, admin. Hope Publishing Co. Used by permission. OneLicense #A-710759 All rights reserved.
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