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Taking Back Prayer Request Time

This might be one of those blog enteries that gets me into a little bit of trouble.  I am going to tell you all a secret about me.  This is something that only my wife knows about me, and it is something I have to get out.  I cannot stand prayer request time.  It drives me insane.   Now don’t think I am some  kind of anti-prayer nerd who loves to watch people suffer.  I feel for people.  In fact, recently I have recently been convicted about the sex trade and slavery that takes place in our country (that’s right people, even in the United States slavery lives and is practiced everyday).  That however is another topic for another day.  Today we are looking at how we can take back prayer request time.  The best way to take it back is by redirecting our feelings about prayer, and us the prayer time as a means to grow closer to God in order to strengthen our faith in Him.

I guess before we look at how we can reclaim prayer request time, we first need to look at why I have such a beef with it.  The first beef I have with it is all people do is complain about their problems.  Now don’t get me wrong as believers we need to share with one another what is bothering them, and take the time to encourage one another in order for us to grow closer to God.  The problem is, we take this time to whine about is happening instead of actually looking for wisdom to either get through it or solve the problem.  James writes:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

I wonder at times if we are really asking for a solution , or we just want to one up people.  Sometimes I wonder if we are trying to have people think that we have it worse than they do.  Some try to one up others, and there are other times where we ask to pray for other people with the goal of gossiping about them.  We use prayer request time as a get out of trouble for talking about others.  Yes, we should pray for others, but where is your heart in the matter when you mention them.  Most times all that is needed is a short statement, but some want to tell the whole story with all the details.  There is really no need for this.  We should be trying to avoid gossip, and not use prayer request time as a excuse to gossip.

The other beef I have is prayer request time does not deal with core issues.  How often do people ask others to pray about their relationship with God?  I doubt hardly ever.  More often than not the last thing on people’s mind is their relationship with the Father.  Often we don’t want others to think we struggle in this area of our lives, or it is not a priority in our lives.  Also if we share about a personal sin or issue we are struggling with the stares of how could you come out.  You get this feeling from a large group that they have all of their issues all worked out.  Now if you are thinking that you do not do this, then think again.  How many times have you heard of someone struggling with pornography and think, “oh man, this guy is really messed up.  He needs help.”  How many of you have heard from a couple struggling to get pregnant and wonder what those people are doing wrong.  I think most of us act like this in a large group because we like to make sure everyone thinks we have it all worked out.  (I am sure this is not true for everyone, but I think we all need to be honest in order to make prayer time more effective).

While we tend to look down on others if they have issues; try not having any problems at all.  I remember a few years ago I was at a small church’s prayer request time, and everyone shared something but me.  I was asked by the gentleman leading the group did I have anything, and I told him no.  You could hear a pen drop at this point.  For almost a split second you could not hear a sound, and then came the chorus of sighs.  Most of them came from people sitting further away from me, while others I believe sighed to themselves.  I think they thought that I believed I did not have any problems, or even worse I did not trust them with these things.  The truth is I just was not lead to share anything at this time, and I did not feel the need to add my Aunt Bertha’s big toe to the list (I don’t really have Aunt Bertha).

God’s Word

I could go on and on about the beef I have with prayer request time, but the purpose of this blog is to use God’s Word to improve on a time that can bring glory to God.  So how can we take something like gossip time, I mean prayer request time, and use to bring use closer to God?  Let’s face it, the purpose of prayer is to develop our relationship with God.  In Zechariah 13, he writes about what will happen to His people because they were not following Him. He says two-thirds will be cut off from God, and this is what he had to say about the remaining one-third:

And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ Zechariah 13:9 ESV

God develops His relationship with His people through prayer.  We grow closer to Him by talking to Him.  It’s just like how we develop relationships with people; we talk to them, and get to know them by learning more about them.  The same is true for God.  In fact God commands us to pray for others if they are suffering.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. – James 5:13 ESV

We get to know Him more by reading His Word and talking to Him through prayer.  One way to improve prayer time is to focus more on others relationship with God.

Another area of focus is the prayer itself.  If you take prayer request actually pray for these things.  Don’t just say “be with all the needs in this room” if you already know what the needs are.  Most stuff you can in less than 160 characters, and people know what you are praying about.  Also, pray for these things during the week as well.  If what is being said is a serious concern that needs prayer, then it needs prayer.  We are called as Christians to go before God seeking His will on different matters and issues.  We need to be focused on the needs and also on others spiritual walks.  If some are struggling with sin, this is a perfect time to deal with it.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14 ESV

The goal is to focus more on the individual, and to improve our relationship with God.

Practical Steps

I think in would be wrong for me to merely criticize the issue and not offer any valid suggestions on how to make this time better.  Let’s face it, we all need prayer and we all need to bear one another’s burdens to God together.  I think the best way to begin to improve it is by implementing small groups as the primary way burdens are shared among believers.  This will allow others to be more comfortable while bringing the group closer together as they are more open and honest with each other.  Each group should have a prayer leader, and if they feel more should be praying for this particular issue, then they can share with others in the church through email and social media.  Also, the leader needs to make sure the group focuses on personal needs. The best way to start is by leading by example.  Share with the group what you struggle with personally, and share with them ways you believe you need to improve your relationship with God.   Then work with each member by making them feel more comfortable, and guide them along to share their needs with others inside the group.  This will create a close bond, and they will grow closer together.  It might not be a bad idea to separate girls and guys.  Each side is generally more comforatable  sharing with someone of the same sex.
I hope this short discussion was helpful in making prayer at your church better.  If anything I hope it will call you to at least examine your churches prayer time, and see if it needs improvement.  There is nothing wrong with praying for others; just make sure your heart is in the right place.  In Luke 18, Jesus tells the prarable about two different men who are praying.  This is what He said:

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else:  “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!  I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 NLT

Prayer is all about where your heart is.  Focus on Him, and your relationship with Him.  Allow the time to be something that brings people closer together and closer to God.

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2012 by in B.E.E.F., Christian Living, Church, God, II Chronicles, James, Jesus, Luke, More About Joe, Scripture, Zechariah and tagged , , .

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