Does Saying 'My Prayers Are with You' Really Help? (2023)

You hear it from politicians whose constituents have experienced a local natural disaster. You see it from fans on social media when some celebrity posts about a problem. You see it on your own Facebook when you share with others that you are struggling or are in a crisis. The all-too-popular phrase, “My prayers are with you.”

When you are going through a hard time, does this phrase:

  1. Comfort you?
  2. Have an effect?
  3. Glorify God?

I’ve spoken with Christian friends about this often. One of us may post on Facebook about a trial we are going through. Several people will say things like “sending you my prayers,” “prayers sent up,” and “my prayers are with you.” Or they may use the prayer emoji to express whatever that means to them (I guess multiple emojis mean they are praying a lot). I don’t want to criticize, as I’m sure all these people are well-meaning.

But does saying, “my prayers are with you,” truly help? Are there occasions when it helps and ones where it feels trite?

To start answering this question, we must consider who usually uses this phrase.

Who Says 'My Prayers Are with You'?

I’ve observed that essentially three groups of people use the phrase, “my prayers are with you.”

First are Jesus followers who truly believe that if they pray to God that those prayers will be “with” that person, in the same vein as when Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

Second are people who aren’t believers. They may be praying to a different God or “the universe,” but they truly believe their prayer has an effect.

Third are people who don’t care that much but don’t want to appear cold-hearted.

For Jesus followers, the key question is whether this phrase fits how the Bible tells us we should pray.

Do We Know What Prayer Is?

The Gospel Coalition provides this helpful definition of prayer:

“Prayer is the act of asking God to do what He has already promised to do. We do this through the power of the Spirit as adopted children through the Messiah Jesus. We see this kind of interaction with God evidenced throughout the Bible as his people continue to ask him to follow through on his promises and bring about his kingdom and rule . . . These include for God to glorify himself, for forgiveness, for our own knowledge of God, for godly wisdom, for the strength to obey, and for the gospel to spread.”

Let’s look at this a little closer, lest we think that “my prayers are with you” is the same as what God intends.

First, true prayer involves asking the one true God to do what He has already promised to do: for example, to never leave us or forsake us, to comfort us in all our troubles, to restore us, to work all things together for our good, etc. We can only come before the Father because of the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us when we believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Prayer is communicating with the most powerful and yet the most loving power in the universe: the Trinity

Therefore, we must not take it too lightly when asked to pray for someone. Wendell Berry suggests that when we talk about God “with ostentatious piety or blabbingly or too often,” we’re not truly honoring him. The same point applies to prayer: we must not be afraid of God, but we should consider whether we’re being a little too flippant as we come before Him.

Prayer has tremendous power, especially when we humble ourselves to ask God for what we need. We read that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

And prayer glorifies God because He wants His children to pray for one another. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:15).

The example of God telling Job that He will only bless Job’s friends if Job prays for them speaks volumes (Job 42:8).

Given what prayer means, saying “My prayers are with you” may sound nice, but we must consider whether we’re using it well.

When Does it Help to Say 'My Prayers Are with You'?

Though I’ve gone to some length to say that it’s not always helpful, and usually not enough to say, “My prayers are with you,” I believe it can be used for good given the right scenario.

I think these words can be an incredible opportunity when written or said to someone who is not a believer. It can lead to a great conversation that leads to God. When I say or write this to someone who is not a believer, it often opens up a conversation that leads to God. It can be a tool to witness about Christ’s love and sacrifice for them.

I believe the only time it helps to say “my prayers are with you” with a believer is when that person knows I am truly interceding with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on their behalf. It’s more like, “I’m joining my prayers with your prayers, and we are going before the Trinity together to ask for mercy.” This makes the word more than just something everyone else says.

If it frequently is not good enough to say, “My prayers are with you,” then what else can we do? Fortunately, there are several great options.

What Else Can We Say Instead of 'My Prayers Are with You'?

We can be more effective than saying, “My prayers are with you.”

We can pray right then and there for a person, even if it’s on social media. We can promise to commit to praying for that person and will check back with them to see if we can continue to pray.

Even better, we can bring scripture to bear on their situation and remind them of God’s promises to help bring encouragement.

Ashley Hooker suggests we can bring much more solace and comfort if we personalize our prayers and well wishes to others. For instance, she suggests these phrases for speaking with a family member:

  • We love you and will support you in this time of need.
  • May God bring you peace and comfort in the coming days.
  • I am sorry for your loss, and I am here to help you in any way.
  • I understand how much you are hurting right now. Call me anytime. I want to help.
  • We are all by your side. You are not alone.

These words go beyond cliché sayings. They affirm that we are called to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).

When to Go Beyond Saying 'My Prayers Are with You'

Sadly, sometimes saying “My Prayers Are With You” can be a way to avoid doing more for that person. Therefore, it’s worth asking what else we can do for people.

Find out if there may be opportunities to serve that individual or family. Perhaps there is something tangible that can be done to alleviate some of their suffering. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. What an exceptional way to show love by helping to alleviate someone’s suffering in Jesus’ name.

The next time you see people (in person or on social media) saying something like “my prayers are with you,” I encourage you to go further. Take the time to pray right then and there to pray for the individual.

Use scripture to remind them of God’s love. Suggest that they hold ontoPhilippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images/NoonVirachada

Mary Oelerich-Meyer is a Chicago-area freelance writer and copy editor who prayed for years for a way to write about and for the Lord. She spent 20 years writing for area healthcare organizations, interviewing doctors and clinical professionals and writing more than 1,500 articles in addition to marketing collateral materials. Important work, but not what she felt called to do. She is grateful for any opportunity to share the Lord in her writing and editing, believing that life is too short to write about anything else. Previously she served as Marketing Communications Director for a large healthcare system. She holds a B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Cornell College (the original Cornell!) When not researching or writing, she loves to spend time with her writer daughter, granddaughter, rescue doggie and husband (not always in that order).

This article is part of our prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times.Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.

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