So this is the third blog I’ve written on things that Christians need to stop saying. The first I wrote was about Christians telling people, ‘you just have to have faith‘, and after that it came to my attention that there are a whole slew of things that Christians say with the best of intentions that actually cause more harm than good. My last blog in this series was about saying, ‘it’s all part of God’s plan‘. If you have other ideas of what you think fits in with this please send them my way, or put them in the comments!
‘Just pray harder’. I’ve heard it. I’ve said it. I’ve thought it. I’ve also had times were this was the least helpful thing that I could hear or think during my Christian walk.
Like so many of the other ‘pithy’ sayings that we make as Christians, we say this with the best of intent. We see someone struggling and know that God can help them in their situation, or know that praying would be a bit of psychological unloading that is sometimes necessary in a hard time. So, we just encourage them to step towards God in the time and pray about it.
Here is the problem. They probably already have. If something is weighing on a person hard, chances are, especially if they believe in God, they’ve been praying about it already. Perhaps a lot! And even those who don’t believe in God, in a hard time, are known to throw out the prayer of, ‘God if you are there, which I don’t believe you are, now would be a good time to show yourself’. So telling someone to pray probably isn’t helpful. In fact it might even be a bit offensive.
If the person knows the Lord, they can feel that your questioning if they really are a believer. If the person doesn’t believe in God my guess is telling them to pray about it sounds a lot like this: ‘Hey, I know that you don’t believe in God, and that this is an even harder time to believe in God, since he doesn’t seem to be doing anything, but have you thought about praying to that God who clearly seems to not exist right now?”
For the Christians reading this I am sure you’re a little worried with where I am going here. Don’t be. I just want us to think about how our words may come across to non-believers.
Here are the facts. We live in a fallen world where crappy stuff happens. Some of that isn’t easy to just rub some dirt on and move on. Some of it takes time and pressing into the Lord. Sometimes during those times we press into God it doesn’t even seem like he is there. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know personally that the times you grow most in your relationship with the Lord is in the hard times. So yes, we need to pray harder. But telling someone they need to pray harder probably isn’t much help.
So here is my thought. Instead of telling them to pray, why don’t you pray? Ask them if you can pray for them. And I am not saying praying later that week or when you think of it in a passing thought. Right there, right then. Pray. Pray with them.
Even Atheists I think can appreciate this. Because although they don’t believe in God it still shows them that you care, and that’s comforting in hard times. If God exists, it could be all the help in the world. If he doesn’t exist. . . well, it still won’t hurt.
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? -James 2:15-16
Christians, ‘pray harder’ are we really helping. I mean, thinking about it extremely critically, how does this help? Essentially, I feel that when we tell someone to pray harder we are telling them to ‘do better’. Not really much help. So lets take a note from this passage in James, and help someone physically how we can, and then also pray with them, rather than just telling them to ‘do better’.