As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.
1 Samuel 12:23
If someone asks me to pray for them or someone else, I do it. I say a prayer right there and then. The duty for the children of God to pray for each other is a frequently mentioned topic in the Bible. Failing to pray for others is a sin if we believe Samuel. But, if I understand correctly, the verse does not refer to a single prayer, but the same kind of constant prayer that Paul exhorts us to when he says "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
If this is the case, and I believe that it is, then I sin without ceasing. Certainly I say a prayer when someone asks me, but that’s usually where it ends. A prayer or maybe two and a half amens is about it for me in most cases. I don’t claim to be a "prayer warrior," but I fear I’m misleading folks when I say "I’m praying for you." Yeah, I’m praying for them at that moment, but tomorrow morning I will have most likely forgotten about it. To be honest, I often forget to pray for even myself. I suspect that many of us are like that, but I must confess that it is embarrassing to admit. This is an area of my spiritual life that I realize needs to be worked on.
I have a few non-Christian friends who are absolutely honest with me when I ask for prayer and tell me that they can’t or won't do that. They might say that they "wish me well" or are sending "good thoughts" my way, but won’t commit to prayer. In contrast, I have a few believing friends who say they will pray for me but fail to do it. Which is worse, the unbeliever who tells me the truth, or the believer who fails to pray? In my opinion it would be the believer who fails to pray. A non-believer has not subjected himself to the authority of Christ and is not bound to any requirement to pray. I don’t begrudge their refusal to do so and actually appreciate their honesty. I’m not saying that their refusal to acknowledge God is anything good, but at least they are honest about it. There are those who feel that God doesn’t listen to the prayers of non-believers anyway, based on John 9:31, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will." There are other references to prayers by unbelievers that show otherwise. In particular, Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Acts 10 was a gentile yet prayed regularly and the apostle Peter was sent to him in response. God is almighty and is not restricted to answering the prayers of only those who believe in Him. Yes, there are instances in which God does not answer the prayers of an unbeliever. At the same time, in His grace and mercy, God is perfectly capable of responding to the prayers of unbelievers as he chooses. My point with all of this is that unbelievers have no responsibility to pray.
As Christians we do not have the same freedom to ignore prayer or to pray however and whenever we feel like it. We are told to pray and to do so without ceasing. A failure to pray, particularly when we specifically say that we will, is dishonest and ultimately sinful.
Forgive me, Lord, for failing to pray. Strengthen my desire to talk with you at all times.