Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Legitimate Non-Biblical Question # 1

For those out there that pray, how do you deal with prayer requests?
Here's what I mean: I'm sure we all have requests of God regarding ourselves. We also pray for our immediate families (spouses, children, parents), and then, too, our extended families. Then, you have prayer requests from close friends and sometimes not-so-close friends that you pray for. Of course, we're to pray for our churches, our Sunday Schools, our missionaries, our country, our leaders, etc. And that's all before you go to church and your big group class has a dozen more requests, your small group has requests, your Sunday night Bible Study has requests, and if you go on Wednesdays or other days, you hear more requests there. Our church, which is relatively large, also has a Christian sympathy list so we can pray for people in our church whose loved ones die. Also, our Adult 1, 2, and 3 e-mails are all hooked so that we receive prayer requests during the week. Wheeeeeeeew.

I know I sound like an ingrate, but truly, just in my church and Sunday School class(es), there's more requests than for what I can consistently pray. Some of the answers to this that I've encountered --

1) Our Sunday School in Adult 1 had a prayer book, where our class would write down requests and add to them each week. Every Sunday, a couple would take home that book and pray over each request in it all seven days of the week (if they could but that was the responsibility for accepting it).

2) Shoot a mini-prayer up for every request you hear

3) According to John Ortberg in his book, The Life You've Always Wanted, he tended to advocate a prayer list that I thought was reasonable, which was, at least at first, pray only for those requests near to your heart. Basically, pray about the ones you really care about. I may be missing that a little as it's been a while since I've read it, but I think that's close.

4) Keep lists and supplicate by those lists

For me, and I know everyone is different, all of these are worthy and noble if you can manage, but I'll be honest. I have a hard time even managing any one of these. At our church, a lot of people throw around the term "prayer warriors" and probably justifiably so for a lot of people in our church. I'm not one. Most of the time, if somebody asks me directly to pray for someone else, I will. And most of the time, if I say I'll pray for someone I do. The rest of the time I'm a liar, which isn't a good thing but it's my thing. But I'll readily admit, prayer isn't the easiest thing for me to be disciplined about. I do have that somewhat constant walking and talking to the Lord as I'm going through the day, which doesn't really start or end, but what I'm really talking about here is prayer where you're sacrificing your time to pray for others about specific requests.

My question is pretty basic, and I asked it at the top. How do you handle all the prayer requests you hear? Do you try to pray for them all? The portion of them that really move you because of emotional attachments? It's always interesting and enlightening to discover how other people overcome the problems I have.


codepoke said...

Tough question!

30+ years in the Lord, and I bet I have failed 30+ of them in a big, big way.

Honestly, I am not sure that there is must justification in scripture for prayer requests the way we do them. I attend my church's weekly intercession meeting, and once the intercession starts it is hard for me not to tune out. I am there for the praise, and for the prayers for the kingdom.

The Lord's prayer devotes one line to our needs, and it is the sixth element or some such. It is followed by two more pertaining to holiness. It just seems so small. Yes, make your requests known to God, and yes my requests may include Aunt Betty's arthritis, but whole lists of people whom I barely know who must be lifted before God? I don't think I see that.

And yet, for the last 6 months or so I have been trying.

I take my church's list of prayer requests (printed up each week from the communication cards turned in every Sunday) and I copy on to it the people who are on my heart and why from last week. I keep that list, and I actually go through it every night. Very seldom does anything drop off that list.

I honestly think it is more important to remember the people with a glass of water than to remember them in the throne room. The Father knows their needs. When they are on my heart, then I should carry that forward - but why wouldn't I? I cannot help it. It's on my heart.

So, the question falls back to whether my heart is open enough to people's problems beside my own. Answer is nope. But at least with that I feel like I am stressing about a meaningful problem, rather than whether I am mentioning enough people enough nights.

It is all just very difficult to me.

Rich said...


Thanks so much for that honest and meaningful answer.

Maybe I mis-named the title, and it should be "Legitimate Biblical Question # 2" rathter than "Non-Biblical." I'm glad you mentioned the Lord's prayer and how that might relate. At the same time, I feel like Jesus loved others and we're to love others, so it's hard to know where to draw a line, if we should be drawing one at all.

codepoke said...


I continue to pray through my list every night.

But, do you get the impression that Jesus did? One day the disciples found that they could not cast out a demon. Jesus came up and cast that demon out, declaring that this kind comes out only with prayer and fasting. Jesus certainly did not pray and fast before casting out that demon, so it is something he did in the days leading up to that event.

I don't know, but I get the impression that Jesus concerned Himself with His relationship with the Father, and trusted Him on the details. That may just be my training, though.

DugALug said...

Great One Rich,

Here is my conundrum: I believe God wants us to pray unceasingly and the Holy Spirit convicts us as to who, how, and why we pray. I also believe that I am too busy and as a result, I don't pray nearly enough because I don't listen nearly enough.

In saying that, we need conviction, tempered with compassion to pray (a little persistance and perserverance help too).

I think prayer is one of the many enigmas that surround God's nature. How can we affect what has already is planned? Yet through it all God's is there and has already taken our prayers into account.

All I can say is 'please forgive me, Lord, because I don't pray like I should.'


Scot said...

When it comes to spiritual disciplines, I am woefully missing the mark. So, that may disqualify me from answering right off the bat, but here goes anyway.
I think it is impractical for us to truly intercede for every request that we may be aware of. After all, there are billions of people in the world that all have needs, most in need of Christ. The concept that I am trying to get wrapped around is what I think is the example of Jesus. He could have healed and prayed for everyone, but I believe the reality is that people died without his healing. There were disciples that he never talked to directly. That wasn't the best use of his time here on earth. Yes, he dealt with the masses at times, but the focus of his ministry was around living with 12 men, and especially pouring his life into three of them.
With that example, we should pour our lives into our circle of influence and release ourselves from the guilt of commandments God didn't give.
Now I just need to work on praying as I should given that context.

Rich said...

I'll just say you guys are making some excellent, excellent points and giving me a lot to ponder.

codepoke said...

Hey Rich,

Over at "aintsobad", a brother is dealing with the same questions in a unique and beautiful way. The post says "part two", but really it's like part 5 or some such. Keep clicking back in time to see how it progressed for him.

I link this post because in it he gets really practical about his routine.

Rich said...

Thanks, codepoke. I'll check it out.