Have you ever been in a Christian small group where members, when asked to share how they need prayer, offer something like this:
“I have an unspoken request. Please pray for my unspoken…”
When a person shares like this, it seems as if they carry a vague burden; one which deems you untrusted to help hold. There are times this is completely understandable. Not every burden can nor should be shared openly. But as in the case mentioned, it seems contagious as around the circle it goes…”Unspoken”…”I have an unspoken request”. This may seem exaggerated, but I have been in small groups where this has been the norm, and as you go to prayer for non-descript requests, what more can be said than:
“Lord you know our needs. Amen” ?
On this unspoken side of the fence there seems to be a lack of trust and vulnerability which limits how much someone is willing to share and therefore the length someone else is able to pray. There is another side of the fence which could include a person oversharing and seeking a place for therapy (there are other places for this) rather than seeking God in prayer.
Why am I writing this? Because it is a lesson I have recently realized. In our women’s Bible study this year, our prayer leader asked us to be thinking about and to share a giantesque (big) request which seemed ongoing or impossible in our lives. That way we could all join our prayers together.
This is a wonderful way to use prayer and to harness the help of others. I knew I could share a safe request, for someone far-removed from me, but my mind kept thinking of this one dangerous request which was close to my heart and which exposed my own weakness. If I shared only the safer, more distant request, I realized it would strangely be a way of cutting off my nose to spite my face.
If I am given an opportunity to gather more prayers for the one burden of my heart, but because of ___________ (pride, shame, fear, lack of trust), I won’t share my real need, then do I underestimate my need? If I pass up true help and share the safe request instead, then what am I really believing about prayer?
What is Prayer
Prayer is a means of petitioning God and asking for his aide in big and little things. I know this. The question quickly becomes: do I believe what I know of prayer?
Do I believe that this time is truly meant to go before God’s throne in heaven through our intercessor, Christ, in order to fight battles that are not of flesh and blood but against the powers of this dark world?
Do I believe that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is accessible to me through the indwelling Holy Spirit and that prayers of faith have the potential to move mountains? And if the same is true for every believer in Christ who utilizes these tools likewise, then why–when many are gathered in his name–would I be satisfied to offer a weak and easy, almost unspoken request?
Maybe for a lack of faith. Maybe I am more concerned about having a request on hand and how that request will look in the eyes of man than I am in humbling myself and seeking God for answers to real prayers. It’s not that the safe request is not a request, but is more a question of my faith. Is my faith so small that I would rather save face than express my humiliating needs?
Intersection of Faith and Prayer
This leads me to another question…to what degree does faith interact with prayer?
Here is a collection of ideas from scripture:
Scriptures say faith the size of a tiny mustard seed can move mountains (Mt 17:20).
Namaan, the king of Aram who had leprosy (2 Kings 5) was simply told to wash in the Jordan 7 times and he would be healed. At first he objected because he wanted more fanfare and maybe some voodoo too. Instead he yielded to what God required, and obedience and faith brought about his healing.
What did those steps on the shores of the Jordan express? Whatever the exchange, God blessed it. Taking the steps of faith marks a transfer of trust and expresses our dependence on God. And God often moves.
Like the Syrophoenician woman, can we too plead:
Give me even just the crumbs from your table, Lord, PLEASE! because your crumbs are better than my whole loaf of manmade bread! (Mt 15:27)
Why be vulnerable enough to put words to the unspoken? Why speak the need rather than suggest a general burden?
Because prayers are an expression of faith. They say: Lord, to whom shall we go? (John 6:68)
Whom have I in heaven but you? (Psalm 73:25)
How Then Shall We Pray
We should pray real requests. Pray frequently and without ceasing, night and day. Pray for all people (friend and foe). Pray with a clear and confessed conscience. Pray with a hope for God’s glory, not our gain. Pray without doubt in our heart. Trust God with the outcomes.
And ask others to pray.
Don’t avoid asking for prayer for fear or shame. Prayer is a connecting gift God gives Christians while we wait for Christ return.
Let us not neglect to use the tools available to us, especially as we see the day approaching.