Monday, July 11, 2022

The Prayer List

It all started with a nephew's ex-wife's new mother-in-law. And where it takes us is into a deep, hard, but necessary, conversation about prayer.

A few weeks ago, one of the accounts that I follow on Twitter tweeted, saying, "Please pray for my nephew's ex-wife's new mother-in-law, who has a tendency to burden her former church's prayer chain with trivial requests." 

It was, of course, satire. It was meant to draw a laugh. I confess that I laughed. 

Every church has one of these folks, right? At least, every church that I have ever been part of has had one, as have other ministries I have danced with over the past twenty years. It's someone who is constantly sending in requests for the prayer list, someone who brings every little thing to the church. Some of them certainly seem trivial; many seem downright strange. 

In twenty years in the fellowship of believers, not to mention the few I've spent in active ministry, I'd like to say that I've seen it all, but I know that the minute I do, someone's going to come up with something even I haven't heard yet.  

But we get these prayer requests. Things like, "Please pray for my cat. He had a little bit of diarrhea earlier today, and I don't know what's going on with him, but I just want him to feel better." Or "Please pray for the pipe that burst in my basement yesterday." Or "I got a touch of food poisoning last night. Please pray for my recovery." And sometimes, even, "I got a touch of food poisoning last night. I'm feeling much better today, but please pray for my recovery." 

These little, seemingly weird, prayer requests can sort of chip away at us sometimes. I have heard from many who say that it's hard for them to even read the prayer list any more when it's "clogged up" with these sorts of things, or that they groan a little inside when they see that another prayer request is coming through from so-and-so. 

Something about chuckling at my Twitter feed felt unsettling in my soul. I started to hear this question roll around in my heart - who gets to decide what's trivial? Is it trivial because it's not important to me? 

I confess I don't care a lot about your cat's diarrhea. Because it's not my cat, and I don't like cats anyway. But I know how I feel when my dog is sick and I don't know why. I know how I worry about trying to figure out the best things to do for her. I know how many times I look over at her, seemingly at random, and have to just look a little while longer and make sure she's breathing. I know how "not trivial" these things are when they are impacting my own life in the ways that make sense in my story. 

And...who gets to say that our trivial stuff is trivial to God? 

This was the real sticking point for me. This is the moment I felt convicted in reading that tweet. Because the truth is, most of us just don't pray like this. Most of us don't take every little thing in our lives to God. Yet, that's exactly what He's asked us to do. It's the way He's told us to pray - in utter dependence upon Him for everything. It's the kind of faith that we profess that we have - relying on God for every breath, knowing every good thing comes from Him. It's just...not the way we pray.

So I laughed. Because I know what kind of person this tweet was talking about. And then, I felt convicted. Because that nephew's ex-wife's new mother-in-law's faith is more sold out than my own. 

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