“Ok everyone, time for prayer requests…” I don’t know about you, but those times always unsettle me a bit. Not that I mind praying, but something just always seemed missing or “off.” It finally hit me, why are we just making prayer lists? When we say “pray for Tom who is sick” or “pray for Fred who lost his job” what are we actually asking God to do? Are we asking God to fix it? Are we asking for God to give us just what we wish would happen? What if we actually paused during “prayer request” time and asked ourselves, “What should we be praying for?”…
No, prayer requests are not often obviously judgmental. Most people have the common sense not to say, “pray for Jim, he’s a jerk.” However, we do tend to allow prayer requests to float around that paint a very “victim” slanted story. Yes, Fred lost his job, but did he deserve it? Maybe Fred isn’t a very good worker, or maybe was in the wrong job. Often times the “hard times” in life are simply the times God needs us to change. If we never question our prayers, we miss the opportunity to pray for ourselves. Instead of “God, help me get a job” maybe we can say, “God, show how I need to work on myself.”
It is heartening indeed to see where others think the same things I do. I find that often happens when I read posts over at Red Letter Christians. Now that I am no longer a member of the small Lutheran congregation I belonged to for several years I can openly proclaim that I felt uncomfortable with all the “prayer requests” that floated among that group of people. Praying for things was something that just did not come naturally to me. I am one of those believers that think that God gives us what we need in the world and that often includes some difficult times. We just don’t need to pray to Him to make things otherwise happen. I simply believe more along the lines of what Jesus prayed the day before his crucifixion. “If it be your will…”
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that everything that happens to me or anyone else for that matter is God’s will. Almost all of it is due to previous decisions by either myself or others. I simply believe that we must live with the consequences of our actions. I now have bad knees along with numerous other afflictions. I know that those bad knees are mostly the result of how I abused my body over the years. I am not going to pray to God to heal me in that regard. I am instead just going to live with the consequences of previous abuse. If God wants to perform a miracle let him do it with something that has more universal consequences.
I love the idea of treating prayer requests as action items for myself instead of just passing them off to God.
- I pray that I become a better follower of Christ and that he help me love my fellow-man more deeply.
- I pray to God to help me make the right decisions in life.
- I thank God for all the blessing he has bestowed on me.
- I pray to God simply because he is God.
When Jesus told us to take everything to the Lord in prayer I think he was telling us to do everything in life with his commands in mind.