“Coveting your Prayers” – Please don’t

The first time I heard the phrase “I covet your prayers” was very early in my life as a Christian. It sounded cool to me, like taking something forbidden and making it spiritual. I admit I even used the phrase a few times when asking people to pray for me.

Now I’m more tempted to address it like this:

Coveting Prayer

My problem with the phrase is that it doesn’t mean what it says.

What coveting is and isn’t

God prohibits coveting:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17.)

The passage is referring to this type of coveting:

1. to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others: to covet another’s property. (Dictionary.com.)

It’s not talking about this type of coveting:

2. to wish for, especially eagerly: he won the prize they all coveted. (Dictionary.com.)

Either way, though, coveting has to do with what is – or will become – another person’s property. And when someone says they covet my prayers, they mean neither definition of coveting. They don’t want to own my prayers and they don’t wish they said my prayers instead of me.

They really don’t covet anything. What they want is for me to help them out, to come alongside them with prayer and support.

Unlike coveting, this desire is endorsed by Scripture both in praying for others,

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people … . (1 Timothy 2:1.)

and in coming alongside others:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

So I will pray for those people who say they covet my prayers, and I’d like them to do the same for me. It’s a comfort, and there’s nothing covetous about it.

***

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23 Responses to “Coveting your Prayers” – Please don’t

  1. Glad to hear you’ve resisted the temptation… but I’d love to see how people would react if you didn’t 😉

  2. I’m pretty sure if you ever do succumb to what you’re tempted to say that you have to add a good maniacal laugh or cackle to the end. Recorded for posterity would be preferable. 🙂

    I’ve never really understood this phrase, but have only heard it a few times. It seems like it’s an indirect way of asking for prayer. You are the subject rather than other people. So it’s like a passive aggressive way to ask for prayer. Instead of just saying, “Hey could you pray for me because (fill in the issue)?” it’s a more general passive “Hope someone would really pray for me about this and I’ll even use some spiritual sounding words to make it really sound good.”

    • Tim says:

      I hadn’t thought of is as being somewhat p/a, but I think you’re right. It can come across that way at times. Other times it’s just spiritual sounding words that don’t carry actual good spiritual meaning.

      On the maniacal laugh, I envisioned saying it somewhat like Gene Wilder at his most crazed in Young Frankenstein. Would that work for you?

  3. Cali Native says:

    I work in a field where language matters and has to be exact. The computer has no comprehension of nuance, context, inflection, or colloquialism. This can get me in quite the hot water at home when I really should understand what someone is saying even if they do not express it correctly. When that happens I ask for, and covet, their forgiveness.

  4. DragonLady says:

    It irritates me so bad when I hear someone say that, and I think I have only heard celebrity pastors say it. I want to ask them, “Do you think that makes you sound super-spiritual? Because I think you sound like you’re trying to make yourself seem super-spiritual by using a Bible word that no one in this day and age uses in normal conversation.” Much like the men in the Baptist sect I grew up in (Landmarkists) who pray King James prayers. Even as a child I wondered why they used “thee” and “thou” in prayer, but didn’t talk to other people that way. As if God only hears prayers spoken in the Authorized King James Version. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      I’ve heard preachers say of the KJV, “If it was good enough for Paul then it’s good enough for me.”

      • DragonLady says:

        I have heard that directly from any, but I have heard it second hand many times. Also “If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.” I don’t think I would be able to bite my tongue if I heard it directly. lol

  5. Kevin Mason (Mision Evangelica Del Ecuador) says:

    I teach English to Spanish speaking teenagers, so I do a lot of translating. Clichés do not translate well. Christianese clichés are worse. Sometimes I have to research the cliché to understand what it really means and then find more descriptive words to better communicate the intended meaning. To those within the cliché using group, they have a vague understanding of the meaning of the clichés used; those outside the group are left confused. I cringe when clichés are used in evangelism. Non-Christians do not speak christianese or understand the chrsitianese clichés so instead of learning about the gospel, they only become confused. Hearing clichés from the pulpit is equally disturbing because clichés do not clearly communicate God’s word. When I listen to a Spanish speaking pastor speak who uses clichés, I do not understand what he is communicating because I am not familiar with the Spanish version of christianese. During the past decades a whole new genre of clichés (and redefinitions of previous common phrases) are being created by the seeker-driven movement and the New Apostolic Reformation movement. The meaning of these new christianese clichés sound okay but what is the real meaning of these clichés and new definitions? Only those within the group know for sure. Then again, maybe many within the group don’t know but pretend they do.

    • Tim says:

      C.S. Lewis wrote a bit on argot, and how it can make some people appear to be part of an important inside circle. Those not in the know, of course, feel like they are on the outside. That’s the unintended consequence of using Christianese as well. And perhaps sometimes it’s not so unintended.

  6. Such an annoying expression in so many ways. Maybe those who use it think it sounds super-spiritual like “journeying mercies” etc. They could always just say “Please pray for me.”

  7. roscuro says:

    My reaction to the phrase is the same as Matt Redmond’s, a mental yell of, “Tenth commandment!” I think your reaction might be more effective.

  8. Tuija says:

    Late to the party at the comment section here, but I still want to say thanks for the language lesson, Tim!
    Don’t know why, but I think I’ve mostly encountered “covet” in the second sense of your dictionary definitions. Until I read this post, someone saying “I covet your prayers” didn’t sound all that odd to me – at least not much odder than many other idioms in (American) Christianese – it just never occurred to me that it’s the same English word as in the tenth commandment.
    I mostly read the Bible in Finnish, and in the Finnish translation the word that corresponds to “covet” is basically the same as “lust for/after something.” Wouldn’t it sound really weird if someone said “I lust after your prayers”? 🙂

  9. Renee says:

    Here is a different take on this, and I mean it in all sincerity and not to argue, just to show the other side of the coin. Perhaps we can find a place of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness in this conversation. What about the fact that in 1 Cor 12:31, Paul tells the Corinthians to covet earnestly the spiritual gifts? Covet means “to deeply desire or yearn for.” I can certainly yearn for and desire your prayers. That is much stronger than just requesting or asking for them. More precise vocabulary isn’t a bad thing. I am yearning for, longing for, desiring your prayers, it is much more than asking for them. Because someone has a strong vocabulary it is considered using Christianese? Puhlease! And for real, I am only coveting the prayers of a fellow Christian, so if I am using Christianese to him/her, he/she ought to understand it! I would hope my Christian friend realizes that by coveting his prayers I am not sinning because I am not desiring something that belongs only to him, I am desiring something that he might be willing to share, as we are to intercede on behalf of one another. Yes they are your prayers, your time with God,and yes I really desire that you take some of that special time and intercede on my behalf.It isn’t that I am asking passive aggressively, it is that I am asking sincerely and in yearning. Hope I have articulated my point of view clearly and that you consider it. I feel when someone tells me they covet my prayers, that wow they really earnestly want me to intercede for them, and that they will really appreciate it.

    • Tim says:

      If covet meant earnestly desire, I’d agree with its use. In the context of the Bible, though, it’s loaded with a more nefarious meaning than that.

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