You don’t do this. I know, I know, you are a prayer warrior, a veritable beacon of holiness and Christian fortitude. But me? I’ve got a lot left to learn.
The other night when our small group leader asked if anyone had a prayer request, one of the first thoughts that went through my head was “Quick, come up with something.”
I didn’t want to make up a prayer request. I wasn’t going to fabricate something out of thin air, but if everyone else had something they wanted prayer for I felt like maybe I should too. So I googled my head and heart to try to come up with an appropriate topic.
And maybe I’m not the only one that does this. Maybe you’re in a small group where people do this too. If you are, and you want to spot it and eliminate people giving into “prayer pressure,” here are the warning signs you need to look for:
1. The Long Pause
If you ask for prayer requests and your friends pause, scratch their heads and appear lost deep in thought, chances are they’ve taken a trip to the part of their head called “Oh jeez, am I really not praying for anything right now?” They’re flipping through a mental flickr photo album saying, “Family is doing OK. Check. My job is doing OK. Check. My car is running OK. Check.” If after 30 seconds of thought time their face still looks kind of like a loading bar on a graphics intense website, move on.
2. The Greatest Hits
Sometimes if someone can’t come up with a fresh prayer request, they’ll dust off an oldie but a goody and give you a “greatest hits request.” These are usually requests that have no discernible end date or conclusion. “I’m still praying for patience and work. I’m also praying that I would be kind to the people in my life.” Notice how lo fidelity that prayer is? “People in my life?” Which people? All people? You can pray about that for the next 60 years.
3. The Ferris Bueller
One of the best scenes in the movie Ferris Bueller was when one of Ferris’ classmates describes a multilayered story of how she heard Ferris was sick. She tells the teacher, “Um, he’s sick. My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.” The same thing happens to prayer requests. Like searching for a car on AutoTrader.com when you get zero results in a 10 mile radius, you expand your search out a little further. If you can’t muster up a prayer request about yourself or your family, you’ll expand the prayer request to include people on your street or maybe your neighborhood or maybe your city or maybe your state. If someone ever says, “I want to lift up our solar system in prayer,” tell them, “that’s adorable” and move on.
I promise if we’re ever in a small group I’ll try not to ask you to pray for something I’m not praying for. I’m not doing that much anymore, but it’s still a work in progress. Would you please pray that I will be honest with the words I say to people in my life and perhaps the universe
Could you just lift that up?
Have you ever wanted to make up a prayer request because everyone else had one?