What does it mean to say: 'I will pray for you'?

“You’ll be in my prayers.”

Oh, how often I use that phrase. To family traveling, a friend preparing for a big presentation, a coworker whose family member is sick. You name it, I assure them of my prayers. And, of course, I sincerely mean it, too.

But how good is my actual follow-through?

Truth be told, not nearly as good as it should be. Day rushes into night rushes into day again, and my prayer list — so well-intentioned — too often is left blowing in the wind.

For a while I thought I had come up with an ingenious solution as I murmured, “Lord, please be with all those for whom I have promised to pray” — usually while brushing my teeth.

But let’s be real — I can and should do better than that.

Maybe you aren’t like me. Maybe you are terrific at keeping your prayer promises, and if you are, I applaud and envy your discipline and self-sacrifice. Your friends and family are incredibly lucky to have you in their corner.

Editor's preview of this week's issue

But maybe you sometimes find yourself having trouble. Maybe you’re full of good intentions, but somewhat lacking in meaningful execution. Maybe you’ve just slightly lost your way.

If that’s the case, I’m very pleased to share this week’s In Focus with you. In four colorful and accessible pages, you’ll find the tools to help you improve your follow-through and become better at keeping your prayer promises.

Author Susan Erschen outlines nine ways — a novena of prayer tips, if you will — to re-think your approach to prayer and what it means when you say “I will pray for you.”

These words are nothing to take lightly, Erschen reminds us. After all, Jesus himself instructed us how to pray. Pope Francis’ first public request, upon being elected, was to ask everyone in St. Peter’s Square — and the world — to pray for him. We need to be doing this.

But promising to pray for others shouldn’t just be empty words; rather it should be deliberate, meaningful action.

So let’s get started. Pull out this week’s In Focus and keep it on your bedside table or near your favorite chair. Take some time to go over each of Erschen’s steps and figure out which methods fit best into your life. Maybe it’s developing a new prayer trigger or starting a prayer box. Maybe it’s putting a prayer list next to the grocery list on the fridge. Whatever method you decide on, I hope that it’s one that more effectively helps you remember to pray for those about whom you care.

For my part, I’m going to resuscitate my well-worn, but recently sadly forgotten about, prayer journal in the hopes of better following through on my promises to pray for others. I’m going to keep this In Focus with it, too, to remind me I can do better — and to remind me of my promise in this column.

Of you, I ask one thing: Pray for me? Because you, too, will be in my prayers. I promise.