Monday, November 2, 2009
Issues With Church: 1 - Prayer
At most churches, caring congregation members can easily find a list of the church's prayer requests. If we're going to be honest, there is a problem with most of our lists. Most (granted, not all) prayers submitted for addition to these lists are viewed as the result of something that "happened" to someone, seemingly taking the responsibility off of the person being prayed for or there is no association of wrong doing with what "happened". While we pray for things like John's broken wrist (which I'm not saying is bad), our prayer lists are usually ignoring the issues in people's lives that drastically, immediately, and sometimes eternally effect their soul's well-being.
The reason? In all the churches I have ever been a part of we have a difficult time seeking counsel and help for problems that carry social stigmas with them. I'm not saying there's not a right time and place for confessing sins or asking for prayer for bad situations. I don't even think its necessarily a bad thing that churches have a public and a private list of prayer requests. The issue I have is that a consistent line is drawn between the types of problems put on our lists.
Maybe we have this idea that there is an unspoken rule for public prayer request lists in churches. But as the church should pray for John's blood pressure, shouldn't we also be praying for Susan's anger issues? Or what about Bob's depression and loneliness because of his broken marriage and relationship with his kids? And what about Tony's (I am having trouble making up random generic names here) problems with finances caused by reckless spending and poor credit card use?
Granted, I fully understand, as did Wesley, that one's physical well being directly effects their spiritual well-being. But it would seem, to me at least, that issues such as these that can painstakingly effect our relationships with God, are just as important for the church at large to be fervently praying (James 5.17) for - if not possibly more important - as one's spiritual well-being is, in the end, what God is concerned with. If we only pray for the things in each other's lives that carry no weight of responsibility, we run the serious risk of Jesus labeling us "hypocrite". Our attempts to hide our deepest struggles behind our "Sunday Best" can only result in anxiety, pride, and in the end, shallowness of faith.
To many like myself, when churches approach prayer in this manner, it comes across as inauthentic or not genuine. And the larger problem for churches here is that, personally, I believe a lack of genuineness is one of the main reasons that drives Jesus seekers in my generation out of the church because we crave authentic relationships and community working together for the purposes of God's Kingdom. If we honestly can't find that in the local church, I hope that the Spirit will help us to find it elsewhere.
This is just the beginning of my problems with prayer. I'll post more issues I have later. In the meantime though, I hope we keep praying for people on our church's prayer request lists, and we take more time to thank the people who spend time putting these lists together for our congregations. And, yes, I will keep praying.