Our Sunday morning church ritual probably looks a lot like yours. We have songs, prayer, a message, communion, and time for people to voice prayer requests.
We get the usual mix of prayer requests. A couple of sick people here and there. Someone with this need or that need. And during prayer, we always allow for silent prayer requests. The ones too personal to say out loud.
Prayer request time can be great, because it’s the time anyone can speak up. It’s also a little risky, because it’s the time anyone can speak up.
But yesterday, I heard the best, not quite safe for church, prayer request ever in the history of prayer…
The Usual Prayer Suspects
Whether you’re in a mega church, a mini church, or just a small group of people, the usual suspects almost always show up for prayer request time.
There’s the people who always have prayer requests. Serious ones too, like they got struck by lightning…again. It’s like they live their lives as a lightning rod, or they are cursed.
There’s the people who never speak up. Either they are exceptionally blessed, or they are struck mute by the thought of sharing their dirty laundry with others…while they politely listen to everyone else.
There’s the people who never have a personal request, but somehow, all of their friends are being smote by God.
And every once in a while, you get a hijacker. I was in a church that had one idiot who would make a speech every Sunday…that was never relevant and almost never actually ended in a prayer request.
It’s hard to be really honest in a group of more than a few people…even if they are Christians. That’s why the honesty of this one prayer request yesterday was such so memorable.
Prayers Not Safe For Church
So yesterday, after a few people had raised their hand and prayed for this friend or that situation, or healing, or wisdom, a good friend spoke up and explained that his extended family is reeling from a recent crisis, and it’s leading to division and fighting.
If it were you, you may have prayed for peace or reconciliation. Something that conveyed the situation in a tidy, churchy sounding way.
His prayer request: “My family needs to get their heads out of their asses.”
It was blunt, honest, and to the point. Everyone knew exactly what he meant.
We’re a small, laid back group, and we don’t have any little old blue-haired ladies prone to heart attacks, so we all had a hearty laugh too.
In case you’re wondering, I did not pray to God almighty, the Lord of Hosts, using those exact words…so the prayer request was more vivid and memorable than the prayer itself.
Let’s Keep the Prayers Appropriate, Christians
Compared to the usual prayer requests, I wasn’t struck by what a crude or vulgar euphemism it was. I was struck by how honest it was. We could’ve prayed for “wisdom,” or “discernment,” or “peace that passeth understanding,” or any other ”church appropriate” euphemisms. They’d be less descriptive, less emotional, less honest, just a lot holier sounding.
I don’t know about you, but there are really very few times when I’m brutally honest with God. I’m probably the most honest with Him when I don’t like what He’s doing, which I talked about here. But I’ve been trained as a pastor to pray appropriately, not honestly. People don’t go to church to hear others be really honest. Honesty is inappropriate.
So I often just say the same things at home that I’d say in church. Maybe because I don’t trust Him all that much. I give God appropriate, little, easy prayers that have been sanitized and censored enough that they could be said out loud in church; the kind of prayers that expect so little of God, He’d have a hard time screwing them up too much.
Maybe you’re the same. Think of all the prayers we hold back, the things we don’t trust God to do. Maybe we think God can sprinkle a little “discernment” or “healing” fairy dust here and there, so we pray cute little prayers for those things. But we don’t trust Him with the heavy lifting, like removing heads that are firmly ensconced in rectums. So we leave the big, honest, inappropriate prayers unsaid.
What about you? Does your private prayer life look the same as the “appropriate” prayers said on Sunday? Is there such a thing as “inappropriate” or “too much information” prayer requests? Are you stuck giving God easy, or “appropriate” prayers?