“Ok everyone, time for prayer requests…” I don’t know about you, but those times always unsettle me a bit. Not that I mind praying, but something just always seemed missing or “off.” It finally hit me, why are we just making prayer lists? When we say “pray for Tom who is sick” or “pray for Fred who lost his job” what are we actually asking God to do? Are we asking God to fix it? Are we asking for God to give us just what we wish would happen? What if we actually paused during “prayer request” time and asked ourselves, “What should we be praying for?”
Is It Really Out of Our Control?
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? – James 2:14-16 (ESV)
When we ask God to “help” there is an immediate underlying assumption that something is beyond our control. No, wait, not control… responsibility. The farmer is does not control nature, but he is responsible for working the land all the same. If someone has fallen on hard times, it seems almost insulting to just say “let’s pray for them” without pausing for a second to ask ourselves, “how can WE help?”
If Tom is sick, let’s help him with food or mow his lawn while he gets better. If Fred lost his job, let’s see if anyone in the church can help him look for a new one or give some career advice. No, we can’t just walk up and heal Tom (at least not in my church), but we can do much for him. How many times should “God help them” be “God let us know how to help them”?
Log Removal Service
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? – Matthew 7:4 (ESV)
No, prayer requests are not often obviously judgmental. Most people have the common sense not to say, “pray for Jim, he’s a jerk.” However, we do tend to allow prayer requests to float around that paint a very “victim” slanted story. Yes, Fred lost his job, but did he deserve it? Maybe Fred isn’t a very good worker, or maybe was in the wrong job. Often times the “hard times” in life are simply the times God needs us to change. If we never question our prayers, we miss the opportunity to pray for ourselves. Instead of “God, help me get a job” maybe we can say, “God, show how I need to work on myself.”
Work List First, Prayer List Later
If we are really gathered together in a time of prayer, let us take this time first to talk with one another. Let us use these times to share, examine, and work through our challenges. Let us first think, “what do we need to work on” before we write up the list and check it off via “we pray for _____.” I think any small group or prayer group that takes the time to ask “What should we really be praying for here?” instead of just pushing through prayer request time would see life change in a heartbeat.
Yaholo Hoyt is a practical mystic, a passionate writer, a paltry poet, and an old-school Jesus freak. You can find him at http://yaholo.net or read his blog at http://practicalchristianmysticism.blogspot.com
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