October 22, 2017

I like the Prayer List

24hourprayer.jpgWhen I returned to worshiping at the SBC church down the street, one of the things I wasn’t looking forward to was the “open prayer request” time I’d experienced there in the past. My previous experiences left me with memories of too much information, too much detail, too much time….just too much.

Things haven’t been quite as bad as anticipated. In fact, I’ve been rethinking the place of these kinds of congregational “prayers of the people” in worship, and I’ve decided it’s more important to me than I realized.

I actually have become quite fond of the large prayer list that sets opposite our weekly order of worship. When I say large, I mean probably a hundred names/requests, printed in a large paragraph, to which we add new names (and occasionally remove a few) every week.

The prayer list dominates our “order of service.” It’s the most noticeable thing about our church’s printed presentation of itself. And it makes a statement that I believe is very important.

Evangelicals and more liturgical Christians have both found the idea of “prayer requests” to be awkward. Some people talk too much. Some are too gossipy. Others obsess over embarrassing and needless details, like the names of diseases and details of doctor visits. “Sister Smith had a bad weekend. Her stitches came out…” TMI.

Important people tend to turn up too often, as do their friends, distant relatives and minor crises. Stories in the news make their way into prayer requests so we wind up praying for whatever Nancy Grace was talking about last night or whatever was on the local news. In rural Baptist churches, it can just become a rambling, unruly mess.

On the other hand, our more liturgical friends have put the prayers of the people into the liturgy and made everything quite civil, with some churches allowing names to be called out, but mostly depending on the priest, minister or lector to lead a prayer response that mentions the more important requests and unifies the congregation’s response.

We did this at soli deo, the worship fellowship I led for a year, and I liked it very much. We allowed anyone to mention a name and to prayer during an open prayer time, but requests were brief, as were the prayers. I was trying for the best of both worlds. (And, of course, it didnt’ work out.)

Most liturgical churches have some form of a prayer list somewhere in a church publication, but you won’t find it often in the printed liturgy. Our prayer list of 100 plus names is quite a contrast. It’s obvious that in whatever liturgical decision making goes on in the minds of worship leaders in a rural Baptist church, the names of people in need of prayer outweigh a lot of other considerations, and that’s proven in the amount of time given to prayer requests in the worship service.

(Even more time is spent with actual intercessory prayer in the Wednesday night prayer service. In those meetings, specific people and needs are prayed for by individuals and small groups.)

Many seeker sensitive churches have eliminated prayer lists and prayer requests from worship entirely. Sam the Seeker doesn’t want to hear it. Twenty-somethings who came to hear about sex in the Proverbs’ series don’t want to know that someone’s Aunt Agatha has cancer. All of that kind of real life can be handled in small groups….or maybe not there either. Can we hire a staff member to just deal with this?

Don’t be offended. It’s a struggle, I know. A lot has to be balanced. My new appreciation for the prayer list is where I’ve come out after being in all of the above mindsets at one time or another.

What does our prayer list say about our church?

All our church isn’t gathered here.

We care about the community, even people we don’t know.

We’re praying for the lost.

We may not all agree on the war, but we will pray for our soldiers. We don’t agree on politics, but we will pray for our leaders.

There are some things so serious, they are just “unspoken.” God knows, and we can still pray.

Some of our people are old. Some are dying. They are still part of us.

We all aren’t doing well, but we’re still a church.

We will pray for people that aren’t in our church. For example, we’re praying for a young Catholic couple many of us know as they go through the aftermath of a miscarriage.

We are praying for people in ministry around the world.

We are praying for whole nations, and entire ministries.

We’ll keep praying.

We are praying for miracles, as well as for grace to sustain in the ordinary and in the chronic.

We pray for our children.

We’re praying for things that prove some of us are pretty messed up.

All of us aren’t doing very well. Some of us are sick. Some of us are a mess. But we are the people of God.

We are the people of God. I like the sound of that. The prayer list frees us from the notion that the people of God are the healthy, happy ones who turned up for worship today. It reminds us that our community is extended into hospitals, nursing homes, psych hospitals, the homes of the poor, the relationships we have with other kinds of Christians and the mission we’re on together.

The prayer list is a picture of the broken and humbled body of Christ. It has a particular kind of beauty, and I’m glad our church- which hasn’t gotten around to a confession, covenant or constitution- has that prayer list.

It’s part of my journey these days to know that my name will one day be on that list, and these will be the people who will love and pray for me when my place in the church is to be ministered unto by the praying people of God.

Comments

  1. great post…

  2. One Episcopal parish I worshipped in for a while in college would have something along the lines of “for all who are sick, espescially…” then read the names on the prayer list who were sick, without the details. At the end of the list the intercessor would say “Are there others?” and a wave of quiet mumbling would rumble through the nave, each person quietly and privately naming before God the person they were praying for. Much more uplifting and edifying than “Lord, we just come before you now to pray for Brother Rodrigo’s piles…” which is an actual prayer I actually heard in an actual church service.

  3. Michael,
    Great post. The church I grew up in had a “Prayer Request and Testimony” time during the worship service where any male adult could stand up and share a request or a praise for that week. And though there were times it was drawn out and tedious and redundant (especially to us kids) it kept the rest of the body up to date on the goings-ons of each others lives, even to the point of “Brother Rodrigo’s piles…” (too funny!)

    But it only worked because we were a smaller body of about 125 people, including kids. We met in a one-room chapel. We were a family.

    In larger congregations, the prayer request insert in the bulletin is a great idea. I love your list below the question “What does our prayer list say about our church?” You spelled it out very well.

    You definitely brought back some memories…

  4. IM, I jsut started reading some of your blog I enjoy it. I passed it on to my son he is a Bible student at Southeastern Bible College in Wake Forest. He has a blog you mite be interested in it is scotrandolph.blogspot.com.
    About Prayer request my church(it is non-denominational, but with American Baptsit and Southern Baptist heritage)puts a list in the bulletin, but we also have a fish bowl which we put names in and each Sunday during worship we go and pick a name out(the ones that chose to)and pray over it for a few minutes, then the Pastor prays for them. As you said there is more invidvidual prayer on Prayer nite(for us it is Tuesday).
    Also you info said you are from No. Central WV, where?If you don’t want to put it on your blog send it to me.I am from Harrison Co.
    GOD BLESS
    BUDDY

  5. Great post.
    It is a hard one to work out ‘nicely’ because it is true that many will just go on and on but to not have any opportunity for praying out loud or even just verbally naming your prayer requests is hard and feels weird. I also prefer just praying for our requests as opposed to the question, “any prayer requests?” and then people ‘talk’ their requests and then the pastor ‘prays’ them….

  6. As a Pastor I too have been frustrated at times with “the open prayer time.” We do not currently do this in out Church right now, but I miss it at times. One thing that we recently started was a time of prayer at the end where 5 or 6 people lift up prayers that pertain to this body of believers.

    As Christians we need to be more sensitive to our corporate time which should include more time for prayer apart from the Pastor. There is such a push for Church growth in our country it can make any leader sick. If any Church truly wants to grow spiritually it will have to learn to get on its knees together with some regularity and call upon God for all things.

    Pastor Jeff
    http://insidechurch.blogspot.com/

  7. Our prayer time always includes both a silent time for our personal intentions, (beyond the list read aloud) and frequently for those who have no one to pray for them.

  8. Yeah, our little baptist church is mainly elderly and the prayer request time on Wednesday night sounds like a role call through a medical textbook.

    This summer at Asbury we are doing prayer time during every service. We give 5 broad categories (for the school, the community, those around the world in need, for those in prison, and for peace around the world), and allow people to raise requests during the specific time. After giving each topic around 2-3 minutes for prayer we all close with “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers”. We found it to be a good time of prayer, to encourage people to lift up requests, but to keep it solemn and not turn into a rabbit hunt.

  9. Why doesn’t the church just set up guidlines for the congregation? Its just that simple.

    Right before prayer list time, the minister/rabbi/priest/etc can say:

    We turn now to Prayer Request time. Rememember only to mention the name of the person you desire prayer for and their city, or if you prefer to keep it more private, you may say only their initials and their city.

    Then….an appointed person (or a monk etc) can go around with a microphone, and the one by one the congregation members who desire prayer can say “Please pray for “Suzy” in “Springfield” …..and the rest of the congregation can follow with “Lord hear our prayer” or some such similar thing, and they move to the next person. It keeps it on task, and short n sweet.

    I mean, if one has faith, then one knows that God already sees the issue at hand, and doesnt need all the details, right?

    This way the flock is guided by the rod. (spare the rod and spoil the congretation?)

    Namaste,
    Edie

  10. Thank God for that I can submit my prayer request here, and thank you for your prayer, may God bless you.
    Firstly, please pray for that my mother was cheated by Mr. Kwong, Mr Ho, Hin Chai and Anna years before, she went to a company and worked as an Office assistant, but they cheated my mother, and compelled my mother to give her money out to them(they cheated my mother that the money was used for investment, and the investment was failured), and went away, thank God for that the policemen arrested Mr. Kwong now, but the Mr. Ho , Hin Chai and Anna were still not arrested, please pray for that God can help the policemen in the investigation, and find the evidence to accuse the Mr. Kwong and his helper in the judiciary court, thank God for that the policemen sent us several letters till now about that the investigation is in the progressing, please pray for that God can move their heart, Mr. Kwong , Mr. Ho, Hin Chai and Anna will regret about that they cheated my mother, and they can have pity on my mother , and return the money back to my mother , thank you.
    Secondly, (1) Please pray for that I can improve my working efficiency, and please pray for and thank God for that God can protect my family members and I will not to be hurt by my workmates and supervisors in order that I can have psychological health during working and I will have a stable job to preach the gospel after my contract due, and pray for and thank God for that I will not be suffered in the marital problems in my job, please pray for that I can further my contract, please pray for that God can help me to make my every effort in keeping my job, please pray for that God can protect my job – which is as a Contract Office Support Assistant, I need this job very much, please pray for that God can have mercy upon me, please pray for that God can help me to tackle with the wrong I make in my job, include (a)I break a pen when I feel very stressed and I hit on my head on 24 OCT 2007 when I feel stressed(please pray for that God can keep the health of my head), (b)I touch on a circuit , (c)I write on attendance book late , (d) They say that I use a sharp things to cut into my skin in order that I can keep on pray, (e) They said that I had not eat rice during lunch hour and eat in the toilet room, (f)I distribute the gospel pamphlets, (g)I knee down & stand up to pray in the office, (h)I carelessly damage a machine used to cut paper , (i)My colleague said that she will accuse me in the court if I do not keep on eat psychological medicines on 1 March 2008, (j)My mistake in handling telephone call, (k) I carelessly hurt my colleague and myself while working, and other wrongs I made during working hours, etc., please pray for that God will forgive my fault and will not punish me about my fault, and I will not make this wrong or others again whole life times, and help me to keep the job after the end of my contract and further my contract for one more year, and please pray for and thank God for that I can have talent to do a job if I will not further the contract later, because I want to earn living for my family members, thank God for that now I have taken in the psychological medicines, please pray for that God can protect me from the side effect of psychological medicines, my mother will not place the psychological medicines into my food, I can forgive my family members if they place the psychological medicines into my food, and please pray for that my family members and I will not hurt by my bosses, and will not suffer a loss at the judgement day. and please pray for that my mother and I can use all our spare time (holidays) to study bible, distribute the gospel pamphlets and pray, so that we can have spiritual growth up and I can further my contract. (2)Please pray for that my mother, brother , sister and I can have safety during working hour, please pray for that God can protect my family members and I to have a job , my brother will no feel ashame about his current job so that leave his job, please pray for that he can accept his current job. (3)Please pray for that my parents could have goood relationship between each other; (4) Please pray for that I now use a sharp things to cut into my skin in order that I can keep on praying, (5)Please pray for that I can restore my psychological health, because I am always blame myself about the sins I committed before, I am afraid that God will punish me about the sins I committed before, please pray for that I can have biblical mind to know will God punish me one day or not, so that I can live out good witnesses and have peace to face the punishment from God one day, and please pray for that God can forgive me. (6) Please pray for and thank God for that I will not be suffered in the marital problems, so that I can seek the kingdom and the righteousness of God first, and have a spiritual growth up, and I will not regret about the decision I made in this marriage this life, that I will only choose the Christian girlfriend that was arranged by God, please pray for that if God had not prepare a Christian girlfriend for me, help me to keep alone whole life, so that I will not be hurt again in order that I can restore my psychological health and have a spiritual growth up. (7)Please pray for that the son of my brother will not hurt himself, my brother and my sister will not be suffered in the marital problems , my sister can have good psychological health, and we can maintain a good relationship, we will not be hurt by the husband of my sister and the wife of my brother, so that my mother and I can help my sister and my brother to accept the Jesus. (8)Please pray for that my computer can run well , and I can continue submit my prayer requests and study bible from the net, so that my mother and I can firmly believe in the bible ,and we can have assurance of the salvation. And please pray for that we will not suffer a loss in the Lord’s Judgement Day, thank God for that I can keep on use mind or mouth to pray in the office , please pray for that God can keep my stomach health if I pray with fasting for too long time, and please pray for that God can keep me not to hurt myself if I undergo stress because I found some blood come out of my body nowadays, please pray for that God can keep me if I need to see a doctor, please pray for that God can help me not to bleeding inside my body and I can restore my health, and please pray for that I can not only keep on use mouth to pray in the office but also in the whole life time, God can keep my health when I pray too vigorous, and I can pray at mid-night , and my mother and I can go to the church where God prepared for us and donate our money there in the will of God, so that we can have spiritual growth up , please pray for that I can maintain a good psychological and body health, and can keep on pray with heart this life, and please pray for that I will not suffer from disease ( such as heart disease) if I pray too vigorous. (9)Please pray for that my family members and I can have place to live and food to eat and we can have safety in using electricity and fire, pray for my sister that she want to born a baby, please keep her health and baby’s health, and please pray for that we can apply for compassionate rehousing in God’s will, may God have mercy upon my family members. (10) Please pray for that when I distributing the gospel pamphlets in the mainland China, the policemen come to me, and write down my Identity Card number, please pray for that God can help me to tackle with it. (11) Please pray for that I hurt my skin in order to keep on praying, please pray for that I can keep on pray with hurt my skin and will not infected by the SARS or other viruses.(12)Please pray for that my brother will not go on drinking the wine and gambling, and please pray for that when his wife want to divorce with him, he will not have some irrational thoughts, such as commit suicide or hurt himself or do some hurtful things . so that he will not be arrested by the policemen. (13)Please pray for that my mother hurt her feet and she can restore her health; (14)Please pray for that God can add my pain, so that I can be purified, and help me to have spiritual growth up, and please pray for that my family members and I will not be hurt by my colleagues, classmates, church members and friends include Christian colleagues, so that they can be helpful for me to live out a good witness before my family members, my grandmother, my father, my sister, my brother and my relatives can all accept the Jesus Christ, and my mother and I can have a spiritual growth up and can strenghthen our faith.
    And I am sorry for any inconvience I made to submit my prayer request here. Pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, a-men.

  11. ShangJie says:

    Please pray that God will increase the size of my male organs by a lot, so that when it’s up, it’ll reach beyond my belly button. Pray that that part of my body will be awesome in appearance and excellent in function. Pray that the skin will be vibrantly healthy. Pray that He’ll increase the male hormones in my body, and reset the glands that produce those hormones. Pray that God will make me extremely attracted to the opposite sex. Pray that God will increase my body’s seed production, and that there will be no defects in it, and that He’ll perfect the genes. Pray that God will heal any problems with nerve connections. Pray that God will have cause a lot of new nerves to grow, make them connect well to the pleasure centers in my brain, and increase the area’s sensitivity by a lot. Also, pray that God will make me extremely attractive to the opposite sex—in my physical appearance, in my natural scent, in my voice; everything.

  12. My current condition includes diabetes, reduced heart function, diminished vision, PAD, nerve damage, and who knows what else. I ask for prayers of healing to make my body as whole, perfect, and complete as my spirit is.

    My blessings and gratitude to you as you bless and honor me with your healing prayers.