I don't know about you, but most of the Christians that I know talk a lot about prayer. "I'm praying for you" is a very common phrase that to many has lost it's reverence. You say "I'm praying for you" when you really mean "I feel sorry for you" or "I'm thinking of you." We promise to pray, and then forget about it. I wonder how many people are actually praying when they say that they are. I don't think they're trying to be deceitful, it's just easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and forget that other people are hurting. We need to break that habit.
Over a year ago I ran into a friend of mine. When I asked how he was doing he looked at me, and with hurt written all over his face asked "Will you pray for me? I can't tell you why, but please pray for me." I was a bit shocked at first over his emotional response, then said "Yes, I will." When I said that I meant it. I prayed when I walked away, I prayed while driving home. And when I got home, I got down on my knees and for a long while earnestly prayed for my friend. I prayed for God to give him wisdom, comfort, and strength. I prayed for him like I would want him to pray for me if I was the one hurting. God gave me little reminders for weeks afterward to pray for that friend. One day I was driving along the interstate and saw about a dozen signs for a college of the same name as my friend. God was reminding me of how important it was not just to keep my promise to my friend, but also to truly pray without ceasing.
I am ashamed to admit that there have also been times when I promised to pray for people and afterwards didn't even give it a second thought. I deeply regret that. I know people who are battling all sorts of diseases, financial trouble, and emotional scars. They ask me to pray, and I say that I will. I could just close my eyes for a second and say "God please heal them" and go on with my day. I prayed, right? I can check off 'pray for friends' from my list of Christian duties. Is that enough, or does God want more from us?
What if God wants us to set aside everything else in our life and just talk to him?
Sometimes praising Him and other times pleading on behalf of a friend. I know that if I was battling cancer, I would want to think that my friends were on their knees praying for me. Sometimes people that are hurting can't pray. They may be so tired and scarred that they are having trouble trusting God. They need our prayers.
Don't ever underestimate the power of prayer. James 5:16 says "Confess your faults one to another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Your prayers are important, and they will never go unheard. God may not answer your prayer right away. Part of the benefits of prayer is that God gives us comfort and wisdom. Through prayer we learn to hear God better. He can then give us wisdom in how we can physically help people.
So I have a challenge for you. It is simple, but it's hard.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Pray... Pray when someone asks you too, and pray when they don't. Pray for your friends, and pray for those who have hurt you. Pray for others and pray for yourself. Pray while you go about your daily activities, and set aside a time to dedicate 100% to prayer. Let's start praying as much as we talk about praying. Nothing could ever replace prayer, don't forget that.