I'm not a fan of the unsolicited prayer. I can remember a few times where someone completely well intentioned asked to pray for me, and the simple ask made me feel inferior. Although their request came from a place of love, I was someone who needed to be prayed for and to me, I was viewed as less than. You could say it's my problem, that I took it that way, but let's be real, we rarely ask a person who is seemingly rocking it out in life, if we can pray for them.
I don't even know why the question needs to be asked? Here's the deal, you CAN pray for anyone, but it doesn't need to be in their presence. And if you're going to pray for someone during your intimate conversations with God, I hope the prayer sounds something like, "God, help me show this person your love, by giving graciously, and being what they need in this time."
You see, we make a lot of assumptions when we pray for people. At one point I couldn't afford food while I ran my nonprofit and was graciously set up at the food bank by a member of the local church. It was a great food bank with a beautiful mission. They really made it possible for me to continue to push through while building the Stable Moments program, but every time I got my food, and they helped me load it into my car, they always asked, can we pray for you? Of course I wasn't in a position to say no, as I had used their services and we were now awkwardly standing at my vehicle. Sure, I would say.
The prayer would go something like this, "God, help Rebecca know you more. Help her in her quest to help these children. We pray that you provide what she needs to feel whole and rewarded in this work." Not a bad prayer, right? But, I felt like I was closer to God than ever before, working in faith to be his hands and feet, following his call to serve these kids. I felt God was providing exactly what I needed, one of those things being food from the food bank. I felt whoever was praying for me was making assumptions that I was struggling and needed God's help and I just didn't feel that way.
They had already shown me the power of God's love. By opening their doors, treating me as an equal, providing a service I desperately needed. No prayer was needed.
In other cases I've seen prayer let people off the hook. They prayed for me, but it was more about stroking their ego. I left feeling inferior and they left feeling like they did the best thing they could, when to me I wished they had actually gotten to know me, volunteered their time, showed me the grace of God by example. Even in prayer, talk can be cheap.
And if you're thinking that prayer has such a deeper meaning for you, and that you use it in your church in much more meaningful ways, just know that outsiders don't know that. They don't have the trust with you that you have built with your church family. Rather than imposing what works for you, ask what works for them and trust that maybe you could learn something, that you could know God more in that moment.
So better than asking someone, Can I pray for you, try, Do you have all you need? How can I help? Trust that God knows who needs his help, and pray that you will be used in whatever way he see fit.