Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2)I was talking to an unsaved “neighbor” who was having several problems and not getting enough sleep. I’d not verbally prayed for wisdom, but my heart was seeking God’s wisdom about what I could say to encourage her. Out popped, “I’ll pray for you. I often do anyway, but now I have some specifics.”
Occasionally in the past, I’ve piously said that to a few people who didn’t like it. They didn’t want me to pray, or perhaps didn’t want to acknowledge they needed prayer. My timing was wrong or I may have had that horrid “holier than thou” tone. Whatever the reasons, God did not bless my words and whoever I said them to was not pleased or built up.
This time, this person was delighted. Certainly the Lord directed my comment, but my heart was also right. I didn’t want to dismiss or overrate her problem. Because she lives a distance from me, I couldn’t drop over with a hug or any other type of support. I wanted her to know that I cared, not just now, but all the time. I wanted her to know that I would do the best option available to me.
This might seem a small thing, but God used it to encourage me as well as her. “Pleasing” another person who does not have the same faith can be difficult. He showed me that He can help me do it if I pay attention to the listener, to my own heart, and above all, to Him.
I’ve learned that “I’ll pray for you” should never be a pat answer to someone else’s need. Pat answers please no one. Besides, they usually come to mind when I have a bit of impatience in me. I’m not listening to the other person, or in a hurry for them to finish, or just want to “fix it” and move on.
Not only that, God never gives pat answers. He sees each person uniquely and with interest and compassion. He speaks directly to their need because He cares for them. If I am going to obey Romans 15:2, I must do the same.