It’s pretty obvious why we should ask people how we can pray for them, right? We are sinful people in a sinful world who believe that God hears our prayers and answers us in his fatherly kindness (Matthew 7:11). We understand that the results of the Fall (in us and around us) make life hard and so we plead with the One who has promised to help so that people will know his heart and experience his mercy in Christ.
But there is a secondary reason for asking people how you can pray for them that I think we should consider. This question helps to cultivate a deeper relationship with the person you are asking, but it can do even more toward that end if you revisit their answer at a later date. What do I mean? I mean to take a person’s prayer request and pray for it, but then make it a point to ask that person about their request in the near future – “I wanted to check and see if there has been any progress with ________________ (fill-in prayer request).”
In doing this, not only are you communicating care by seeking them out again, but also by remembering their request. In a world where so many prayer requests are forgotten and un-prayed, this practice stands out. In that second conversation you will also likely get more information about the request which will provide more fodder for prayer and even further conversation.