When we're talking about our own personal thoughts about the prayer list, how we might be willing to use it, what our threshold is for making a request, there's a hard truth that underlies all of it, and that truth is this:
Too many of us hesitate to add our needs to the church prayer list because we know that we are not praying for our needs ourselves.
There are, of course, a number of reasons for this.
Perhaps we don't know how to pray. Prayer is a discipline that is not taught so much any more, unless it is taught at home. In churches where prayer is a staple of the Sunday morning service, members of the church tend to witness some very formal and non-specific prayer, which isn't really helpful when your own heart is hurting. Some churches have done away with a dedicated public prayer time in fellowship and only pray "for" different parts of the service - a prayer for Communion, a prayer for Offering, a prayer for the sermon. And many of these moments of prayer have actually become just continuations of what the speaker was saying beforehand; too many persons who pray in the church are praying such that the congregation hears the message one more time, not praying for God to hear the cry of our hearts.
Sometimes, we get too busy solving our own problems to stop and pray. We are a people who are taught to take care of ourselves, and we live in a culture where self-sufficiency and initiative are rewarded. So when we are faced with a trial or a struggle, our instinct is to jump in and try to start working our way out, not to stop and pray first.
Maybe we think that what we want to pray about isn't the kind of thing that God is interested in, that we shouldn't bother Him with whatever it is. This reveals a serious heart problem. Put simply, this kind of faith is not faith at all. If you don't believe the God who knit you together in your mother's womb cares about every single little thread of your life, you don't believe in God. Sorry. That was blunt.
I know that for me, there are times when I start to pray about something and realize how limited my own perspective is. I realize that I am praying for something that I think is good, but something in my heart nags me to tell me that it's not really what I want. Then, I get all flustered and lost in my own finiteness, and if I don't even really know what I'm praying about, then what am I doing? It's easy at that point to just quit praying.
There are times, too, when we are just too weary to pray for ourselves. There are times when we've run out of every single thing that we've got, and it takes every fiber of our being to take that next breath. There are times when we have been praying for so long, it feels like we can't pray one more day. Our knees are scuffed and scraped and there are deep ruts in our hands from holding so tightly together and we're just so exhausted that we cannot possibly pray right now. (This is, by the way, a great example of a time when we should use the prayer list! So that other prayer warriors in our fellowship can hold us up when we can't.)
The point is - too many of us hesitate to add our requests to the prayer list because we know we aren't praying for them. It's hard to ask someone else to pray for us when we aren't praying for ourselves. It feels like...asking someone else to live our faith for us. It feels...cheap.
So maybe the place to start with the prayer list is by asking about our own prayer lives. Are you a person of prayer?
What would it take for you to become one?
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