Struggling with prayer lists
14 Dear brothers, what’s the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren’t proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? 15 If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, 16 and you say to him, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty," and then don’t give him clothes or food, what good does that do? James 2:14-16 (TLB)
As the worship leader droned through the seemingly unending prayer list in her monotone voice I found myself becoming disturbed not only over its length but the seemingly lack of genuine concern for those listed. Some of the names seemed repeats of previous weeks; in fact some seemed to be on the list for months on end! Further, their continued presence there seemed to raise the question whether God was really responding to our prayers, if He did wouldn’t list decrease in length?
I silently chastised myself for these seemingly non-Christian thoughts but the question remained and I pondered the effectiveness of the prayer list and why we being subjected to the same litany each Sunday. It wasn’t that I was against prayer lists as they were an integral part of own daily devotions. Why, then, was I semi-resentful over its being read each Sunday? Didn’t I care about the problems of my fellow members? No, actually some of them were on my own list. However, these conflicting thoughts remained with me during the remainder of the service. I don’t even recall one idea from the message. Why did the reading of the church’s prayer list bother me so intensively? As I gave additional thought to the matter I realized that one significant difference between the church’s list and my own was that as I raised each name in prayer, I asked for guidance as to how or if I could someway alleviate the person’s concern.
It was then that I discovered the source of my discomfort! The reading of the prayer list was basically seemed to be turning the problems and issues over to God suggesting that it was His job to take care of it. While it is true that there are certain problems only He can solve; but I do believe that as fellow believers we are meant to be His hands, feet and heart in this world. Consequently, we were meant to be the answer to some petitions rather than just reading the names of those in need. That practice seems like suggesting, “Hey God here’s a problem, solve it!” rather than seeking guidance how we might assist.
I have found it necessary with my personal prayer list that I stop and visualize the person and his/her problem and then solicit guidance from the Holy Spirit as to how I can possibly be an “answerer” rather than just merely be an “asker”. Admittedly, there are times when the response may be limited to a phone call or sending a card in which we pledge our continued prayer support but frequently other responses become apparent. The verses from James cited above would seem to provide guidance as he provides instruction as to what a believer’s response should be.
A final thought, it bothers me to hear believers say that there is power in prayer. There isn’t any power in prayer. The power rests in the God who answers prayers often with the assistance of Christian helpers! May we keep ourselves open to doing His will for each of us?
“Lord, indeed I have received much at Your hand. My cup overflows. May the free giving on your part stimulate me to assist in meeting the needs around me? Guide me in seeking those who are in need so I share that which You have so freely entrusted in my care.” Amen