On Sunday during announcement time I tallied up the number of prayer requests in our bulletin (28) and the number of them that concerned health problems (20). This week alone there were descriptions of surgery wounds that wouldn’t close, broken hips, infections, blockages, and back surgery.
In contrast, a few people asked for prayers for friends experiencing a death or divorce. One person prayed for work. One prayed for the caregiver of another person on the list.
So here are this week’s heretical questions: Why do we equate “prayer request” with “health problem”? Is this really how we should be spending 70% of our prayer time?
I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray for physical healing (I know, I know, God is the Great Physician), but what does it say about us when so many of our prayers are for the alleviation of pain and suffering and so few of them are for the character to endure it well?
Also, while I’m throwing in some extras, WHY THE INSANE LEVEL OF DETAIL IN THESE REQUESTS? To pray effectively for someone, do we really need to know how much fluid she’s retaining, or that he choked the first time on a bagel and cream cheese and the second time on chicken soup? Sometimes I forget whether I’m reading the prayer list or the hospital’s patient charts.
These lists can also just function as news updates. Although I’m sure some good souls actually take them home and pray over them during the week, I suspect most of us simply glance through them to see the latest on everyone’s maladies. Is this necessary?
And is it necessary given that the majority of most updates (17 of the 28 in this week’s list) are for friends of friends or extended family—people we’ve never met and likely never will? I know each of these people is dearly loved by someone or they wouldn’t be on the list, and I’m not saying we only pray for members. But we already spend so little time praying corporately at all, and so little of that time listening to God instead of asking him for things, and so little of that asking for things like mercy and faithfulness and patience and peace—is praying for the herniated disk of a member’s friend’s father the highest priority?
Speaking of praying for our own spiritual growth, when is the last time you prayed for someone going through physical therapy AND cleaned her house? Or prayed for someone with cancer AND took his kids to soccer? If we’re going to pray about it, shouldn’t we be prepared to be part of the answer?
Okay, this post is all questions (or a rant disguised as questions–take your pick). What are your thoughts on the answers?