Prayer is Only Play...
"Hello friends, please say a prayer for Suzie. She is having surgery this afternoon to remove a tumor in her lungs. Thank you."
I'm satisfied with the request for prayer...it's a serious need. However, many of the replies to the request give me heartburn. Here are some examples:
-- "Prayers and thoughts sent!"
--"Prayers headed her way!"
So what's my beef?
First, we have a rather cavalier approach to prayer these days. After all, we have emails to send, Facebook feeds to read, and candy to crush. To many people today, the average prayer is akin to a short tweet or email sent up the chain to God, only then to be checked off the list of things to do that day. I imagine God opening his web browser and reading, "You've got mail!" His reply? "Oh, super! Let me just reach down there and fix things now that I've read all these little notes asking for my help."
I imagine people praying (if they actually pray for the requested need at all), "God, please heal Suzie", then clapping their hands together like they're removing dirt from their palms, saying, "Good, done with that one. Ok, now what am I going to make for dinner?" We may not actually SAY those words, but our approach to prayer seems to suggest that's exactly what we believe.
Pastor David A. Redding, in his 1962 book, "The Parables of Jesus", when discussing the parable of the persistent widow, wrote, "Those who take prayer so lightly they can't remember what is was they meant to pray for and never pray for the same thing two weeks in a row, who assume one mention is enough, at least to be mad about if He doesn't answer within the hour, make prayer a pity. Prayer demands determination and patience." (p.39).
Next, what exactly are "thoughts" sent? This has also been translated as "positive vibes", "good thoughts", etc. How can one's positive vibes or nice thoughts help even the most distressed person in this world? "That guy down the street sure is cold and hungry, but I'll just think positive thoughts, and everything should be alright." James wrote, "What good is it if a person goes without clothes or daily food and you say to him, 'Go, I wish you well. Be warm and well fed?' and you do nothing for his physical needs?...faith without deeds is useless!" (James 2:14-26). Our thoughts cannot truly help anyone! The hurting, the hungry, and the lonely crave our ACTION, not simply our "positive thoughts and vibes".
Finally, and this is probably my biggest beef of all -- whenever I read something like, "...sending prayers your way", I get, well.... NO! Don't send your prayers to me, or to Suzie, or to the doctors, or to anyone else. What value is in that? Pray FOR me, or Suzie, or the doctors, but not TO us. Sadly, this is not just something I've observed only from non-believers; I've also read this from professing Christians!
Prayer offered to anyone but the Father Almighty is not only pointless, but is an idolatrous abomination to God himself! (Ex. 20:3). Please, if you're truly going to pray for this-or-that need, please earnestly approach the throne of Heaven (Matt. 6:9-13), and beg God for His mercy and favor. If you pray for me, please do so in this manner, or I must kindly ask you not to pray for me at all. Please don't ever send prayers "my way". Instead, "...in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Php. 4:6). Approach HIM, not me -- or anyone else.
Lord, may I take prayer so seriously that I will "pray with passion -- until all the yawns are gone and the sleepy, halfhearted hopes and dreams become burning desires". May I remember "prayer is only play until it is intense, relentless." (Redding, p.41).
at 10:26 AM