I had a high school speech and drama teacher who shared with me that one of her biggest annoyances was the casual greeting people offered of “How are you?” As she pointed out, people seemed to just say that as an alternative to “Hello” because in fact, people really didn’t want to know how someone was doing. She encouraged us to respond to someone who asked that question with a lengthy discussion of the trials and annoyances we were experiencing that day so that perhaps they would think twice before asking that question so insincerely. As my teacher said, “Don’t say something unless you really mean it.”

The past few years, after nearly every tragedy, public and private figures alike often express that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families. Recently, I heard someone convey to an acquaintance that he was thinking of her family in his thoughts and prayers. As we walked away, I expressed surprise to my friend that he prays. He replied that he doesn’t really pray – “it’s just something that everyone says to show sympathy.” Another friend recently lost her husband and I noticed a large number of people expressing that she was in their prayers. I truly hope they are following through with that statement, but I’m worried that sometimes it extends no longer than the time that it takes to type the words out on Facebook.

Well, I’d like to stop this trend. Whenever I tell someone that they are in my prayers, I mean it. I truly pray for them. Sometimes I find myself praying and simultaneously trying to remember for whom I promised to pray. I have a good friend who keeps a written list of those she prays for so that she doesn’t forget anyone. I want to encourage my fellow Christians to do the same thing – if you tell someone you’ll pray, be sure and do so. Don’t just say it as a means of expressing sympathy and support, but mean it. Make it so that telling someone you’re praying for them guarantees that you’re bringing their hope and sorrow before God repeatedly. I believe in the power of prayer and, while I don’t think God needs us to remind God of our friends’ and family’s needs, I am certain that it is heard, appreciated, and can, in fact, make an impact on lives.