James 2:16 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?
I recently heard someone complain that their coworker said “I’ll be praying for you”, after they shared a personal struggle. The complaint was that they felt it was slightly invasive – assuming they’d want to be prayed about. What?
Consider if you shared your personal struggle with me – something you’re going through right now. Assume I have listened thoughtfully and you feel I genuinely care for you. What does it mean if I say then “I wish you well”? Or “my thoughts will be with you”? Or “I’ll be praying for you”?
To me, “I wish you well” ends there. Sure, the good will in my heart for you doesn’t end. But the response to your problem ends with that wish, thrown out into the air. There is no further action on my part. Solving the problem is left to you and to luck.
“My thoughts will be with you” is slightly better. At least it implies ongoing action. If a friend tells you their problems, you are likely to occasionally remember what they told you. But it is hardly intentional, and again I am doing nothing to solve your problem.
Wishes and thoughts are what a stranger will do even without trying. Anyone who drives past the scene of an accident is likely to hope (wishes) that everyone is ok, and may even think (thoughts) about the scene later. Those are hardly the actions of a friend.
A prayer is a little different. It is intentional action. Not only will I recall your problem, but I will ask for assistance from someone who I believe can help you.
Of course, if I can actually help you myself, that’s what I should do. Offer advice, lend a hand, share a meal or clothes or a place to stay.