A common theme in Paul's letters is his reminder that he was praying for people. Phrases like "making mention of you always," "every prayer," and "without ceasing" and are made regarding both congregations and individuals (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:4; Col. 1:9; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:3; Philemon 4).
Such words would have brought great comfort and strength to these Christians. However, it was more than Paul's sincere intention to pray for them that brought comfort. It was the assurance that actual prayers were being offered to God on their behalf. They knew that when Paul said he was praying for them that he really was praying for them.
Many Christians claim to be praying for individuals today. Perhaps a need is made known through a personal conversation, a request posted on social media, or a public response to an invitation. Our immediate response is to say, "I am praying for you," but are we? Are we following through on the promise, or just speaking the words to provide immediate comfort?
It is the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous person that avails much (James 5:16), not the good intentions or a mere promise to offer such prayers. It is sometimes hard to remember every promise we have made, but as Christians we need to be people of our word. If we say, "I am praying for you," we need to do it.
An older preacher named Louis Sharp once told me that he carried a list of members who needed his prayers. He would add and remove names from the list throughout the week. When it came time for him to pray, he would refer to the list to make sure he remembered these individuals. Brother Sharp has passed on to his reward, but perhaps we can benefit from following his example. We should try making a list of those who need our prayers, either in a little notebook or perhaps on our smartphone. Such a practice can help us if we are having a problem with the "follow through" on our promises to remember people in our prayers.