I made a Google search for the phrase “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” and the result was thousands upon thousands of promises made by folks to keep someone in their prayers. Some even went so far to say that they would keep you in their thoughts and prayers. Then later, I went to visit a woman in the hospital who is very sick, and she too asked me to keep her in my prayers. We all use this phrase; it just comes natural. When we say it we place an emphasis on the fact that we will pray for this particular person. But I think the word that really needs to be looked at here is the word “keep.”
The Hebrew word shamar; to keep, has several definitions depending upon its usage, but each of these applications of shamar
carry with them a sense of duty. To keep someone or something is to be
diligent to the Lord’s charge. In Genesis 2:15, we are told that God
put humans in the garden to till it and to keep it. Keeping God’s
garden is a monumental task, after all, God created the perfect garden.
To keep this garden means to have charge over it and to subdue it.
Keeping the garden means that we are to remain diligent and use all of
the gifts God has blessed us with to the best of our ability.
also means that we are to keep watch or vigil. In the garden of
Gethsemane, Jesus instructed his disciples to keep watch with him
because he was deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Jesus’
instructions weren’t simply to watch out because someone might be coming
to take him away; Jesus wanted to know that his disciples were there
with him in their fullest capacity. The ministry of presence is such
that a person who is grieved can take some sort of comfort knowing that
loved ones are near and ready. They have made themselves available to
help in every way. Being there for someone during times of illness or
crisis means being there in mind, body and spirit. It means being
willing to walk through those dark valleys so that our friend is not
When we say to someone that we will keep them in
our prayers, we are saying more than we will simply mention their name
when we pray. We are making a pledge that we will be ever vigilant. It
is more than simply making a visit to a hospital room or home. We are
saying to them that we love them and that we will use our God given
gifts to be with them, remaining vigilant so that they are not alone.
We promise to lift their concerns before God in prayer, often and with
great concern. And finally, when we say that we will keep them in our prayers, we make the promise to be ever mindful of our friend’s needs. We promise to pray, but we also promise to keep them, to be available in our fullest capacity, in mind body and spirit, to look after their needs and concerns.