In the whole risk / reward balance, there are some ways we can be wise about our prayer requests.
Our church wants to cultivate an environment of prayer support by “Serving and encouraging with trust, compassion and care”.
It is tricky to be a helpful, public person to someone’s private pain. As someone who is always involved in people’s delicately detailed stories, I know it is tricky to know how to be there as a loving presence for people! If you feel the same, then do what I do. I suggest you pray for guidance, listen a lot, then be yourself and stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. I suggest doing anything that you think will best express considerate Christlikeness. It could be a Bible verse, a hand wirtten card, gift card, a text message of a memory, a call, a silent hug with a knowing look in your eyes, a casserole, a car wash, comedic relief, whatever is from your heart! If you have nothing to say, then don’t say anything! It is okay to say “I don’t know what to say.” Please use godly wisdom and common sense when handing delicate personal information.
Here is how I suggest we create community through sharing prayer requests wisely:
A. Beware of a wolf in prayer warriors clothing
Prayer requests will come from 3rd parties. Often prayer requests come to us as something shared “on behalf of someone else”.
One example is “You know Pastor Adam, we should really be praying for Mr.XXXXXX because XXXXXXX”. In some cases, that is gossip or slander. In other cases, it is helping the helpless who can’t ask for themselves. Caring friends and Spiritual leaders need to be discerning in order to preserve trust. We don’t want to feed the gossip monster. Always check you sources! Sadly, I know some people who have a sinful curiosity and lust to gain power through a hunger for juicy gossip. They want to be in the know on everything so they can have power over people. Beware of the motives behind the question “how can I pray for you” and the statement “you should pray for so and so because”. The sad truth is that occasionally a gossip wolf wears prayer warrior clothing to church! Nothing will kill intimacy in prayer faster than trust violation by gossip or rumours! Theses are the risks to sharing a prayer request. The reward to risking, however, is that sharing a prayer request with a trustworthy person can build intimacy lift a burden and bring healing light into a problem.
B. Empower a prayer warrior in sheep’s clothing.
Prayer requests come directly from the person. I have people who ask me to pray for them. When someone shares THEIR OWN prayer request with you directly here is what to do. Ask these 3 questions to ask a prayer requester:
1. What would you like God to do in this circumstance? Then pray what they ask you to pray for succinctly and see if the Spirit adds to your insight. For example: Pastor pray for me to get a new job because I hate my boss. How would you pray for them? Pray exactly what they asked. Then explore the statement and offer to pray again with the new information you have. That is prayer counselling.
2. Who else would you like to know or not know? I ask people if they would like to recruit a few other people to join their prayer team for this challenge? I ask them for names in an email. This puts them in charge of the story. They control the information flow. This honors their boundaries! I hear: “Pastor Adam, I don’t want anyone else to know about this”, or “Pastor Adam, could you get the whole church praying for this.” or “Pastor Adam, can you call these 5 people an get them to come to my house for special prayer.” You will too. Recruiting a few people to pray builds them into prayer warriors!
3. Would you like to pray yourself right now? Invite them to pray for themselves in your presence! Often people feel inadequate or unworthy to pray for themselves. You can empower a prayer warrior in sheep’s clothing! It can be very empowering to learn that you can pray for yourself and God wants to hear from you, not just the paid professionals!
When I ask people to pray for me, I find the most godly and trustworthy people I can and then I am as honest as I feel I can be. I test them by giving them a bit of information and see how they handle it, then increase the intimacy as trust is earned!
If you are looking for someone to pray for you, then be clear about the boundaries and uses of the information you share and receive as prayer requests! There is a risk, so guard your heart! There is a reqard, so open your heart!
I hope this post helps you be sensitive and supportive as well as seek supportive community!
On a personal note, thank you to my care constellation of the last three years for your excellent love and support for my last 3 years!
You who have repectfully, carefully and tactfully reached out have earned my loyalty and affection.
Those of you who were not so caring, I forgive you and I hope you will learn from the experience.
I hope that healing prayer, trust and compassion will be enhanced by both posts!