Thursday, March 20, 2008

Let's retire "unspoken prayer requests" please.

I think it's time we put the phrase "I have an unspoken prayer request" out to pasture. Seriously, let's just kill it.

It's one of those ideas that keeps us hidden from the people we're supposed to be visible to. When you say that to someone, you're hiding. You're putting a wall between you and the idea of prayer, which I think is meant to be vulnerable. You're hedging your bets in a way, asking for someone to give you something without giving them anything at all. It's a little hollow and a little empty and a little fake.

You can always go to James 5:16 to get a reminder of what God says about confession:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

It doesn't say, "sort of confess," it just says confess. So I think that's what we're supposed to do when it comes to asking someone to pray for you.

And here's the other thing, when you tell someone you have an "unspoken prayer request" people assume the worst. They might not admit it, but people automatically think, "wow, that dude is having an affair" or "yikes that guy is embezzling money" or something equally as big.

So do the simple thing. Ask for prayer with words that mean something and lets retire the phrase, "unspoken prayer request."

p.s. Be careful about James 5:16, it's one of those verses people often use as an excuse to employ honesty as a weapon.


seven said...


portorikan said...

good post. I know I've used the unspoken request to keep from being truly honest, but what I felt was private info for someone else.

It's important to know what you're praying for though and to be specific, and unspoken requests don't really facillitate that.

Joe said...

I have asked women to pray for my struggles with porn. They have and God delivered me.

Nothing in my life goes unspoken. I know if I struggle with it then somebody else out there will. My God is my Deliverer.

Brent Logan said...

Sometimes, it's not my place to disclose the issue. Otherwise, we fall into the trap of "sanctified gossiping."

Suppose I'd like prayer for a friend who's having "integrity issues." Should say, "Let's pray for Herbert who's cheating on his wife," "I have an unspoken prayer request for a friend," or just say nothing?

Mrs Nespy said...

Thank you for this request. We all need prayer...we all know this, but to hide under a blanket of "unspoken requests" is even offensive to me. It is saying, "I trust you enough to ask you to intercede on my behalf, but not enough to tell you why." Really--I will pray for everyone in the group, but you have to be more specific if you want specific prayers.

baby trevor's mommy said...

Okay so for what it's worth...

I'm totally of the persuasion if it's on YOUR heart...than YOU pray for it.

If it needs to be on mine...then trust the Spirit to deliver.

Anyway...totally belated comment I know...but I just stumbled on the site today & this being a topic of convo between the hubster & me I thought I'd add...


Josh said...

Along these lines & more broadly of the goal & benefit of prayer, in general, my response to the concern about "outing" someone else's sensitive struggle is to question the need. Why do we pray? Is it to inform God? He doesn't know the issues without our informing him? His will won't be done in the situations we pray about unless we request such? I'd argue that it's about informing & focusing ourselves. The reason to pray is to fix your mind where it needs to be fixed, to dwell, to meditate on the issues & concerns & beauties & graces we should be. The reason we share our prayer requests is to inform, to facilitate a community of accountability & support. So, where, then, would an "unspoken" fall? As you so eloquently point out, Mr Acuff, nowhere. It doesn't fit. The only reasonable replacement I can come up with besides spilling the details is "I have a struggle". That might at least let those you share with to know that you need their compassion & support & love, although not as specifically as details. But, sharing anything about someone else that has no real chance of receiving love & support & accountability, I just don't see the point in that. I really wish this was how the Christians I know well would more often pray, with an inward focus & outward request for love & support, rather than a) with some misguided notion that God won't do His will unless we present him with the request, or b) much worse with a desire for some "righteous" & "prayerful" gossip.

--Boldly Foolish said...

My thoughts have been that if the matter is too private to disclose in public, then save the request for a more intimate group with whom you can be more open. Don't kill the request all together, just share it when and where you can really share it.

I will say this, because it's a running gag with my wife. I told my mom one time that I didn't think unspoken prayer requests had much value (mind you, I'm an adult, and an ordained minister) and she told me, "You just don't have enough love."

Anonymous said...

sometimes, however, you work in a hell hole of a place and your unspoken request is that God would take you out of the pit of hell...and you desperately want people to pray for you...but the place you work is in church...hence, your request remains unspoken...

Daniel said...

can you guys really pray for me? i have 3 unspokens.

Timbo said...

I have a problem in abandoning unspoken requests, and it's simply because I don't want my buisness to fill the heads of those that use church as a social outlet. You know, if I honestly knew that all 150 people in my church were going to pray for my request back when I had it, I would have said exactly what was on my mind, but unfortunately, I know that only a small percentage would pray, and the rest would gossip and/or offer unsolicited advice.

Two examples backing this opinion up. First, when I got divorced, I was incredibly bitter and angry and frustrated. Add to that the extreme poverty that resulted on account of the divorce, plus the fact that my ex left me for another woman, and I think you might be able to see why I didn't want to broadcast that. I just wanted some support in the form of prayer, and I feel like I got it, and I don't think that it was a matter of being or not being honest. It was a matter of not feeding the gossips.

The second situation, which shows what can happen when unspoken requests are spoken, is pretty simple. I have depression. I told my mom I suffer from depression. She asked for prayer for it on my behalf (not at all what I wanted, but she had my best interests in mind). I was beseiged by people offering up advice on the issue ranging from "Hey, I am depressed to, I will pray for you" to "Hey, nutjob, it's all in your head". People seemed to love telling me their theories on what depression is, what causes it and how to fix it. Let me tell you, when your in an emotional valley, nothing helps less than people giving you unwanted, and frankly, inappropriate and incorrect advice on how to deal with it.

I believe in the power of prayer, but somethings are better left unsaid. I think God is fully capable of understanding what your request is and working through it without it being spoken.

Prodigal Jon said...

First of all thanks for being honest in your comment. That was more than I expected in a comment and felt true and genuine and for that, I am grateful. I think you are right, God is capable of understanding what our prayers are, but I would also say that you are the rarity. I would hazard a guess that a really thin majority of the people that use the phrase, "unspoken prayer request" are using it as an honest way to receive prayer without saying that they are struggling with poverty because their wife left them for another woman. You are rare and honest and when you tell your story by asking for an unspoken pray request you are showing vulnerability. I should have done a better job addressing this post to the true offenders, the guys I know that say, "unspoken prayer request" because they don't want you to know the ways they've broken your vow of accountability with them or the guys that use that phrase because it's easy and hollow and that's how they want life. I hid behind that phrase for about two decades so that post was directed at me. I never intended it to reflect back on what you went through, and I appreciate you sharpening my idea with your honesty

Timbo said...

Dude, I am the one that should be thanking you. Believe it or not, "Stuff Christians Like" has really helped me start looking for a path back to faith.

My belief in God has never wavered, but I can't say that I have lived as a Christian at any point in my life. I curse like a sailor at times, I do pretty much whatever I want without regard to God, and I can be a prideful and slothy at times. I mean, you yourself said that "sin is fun" recently on SCL, and I am here to tell you thats true!

As I have gotten older (I am 36 now) I am learning that I simply just don't want to do those things anymore. It's not that the fun has gone out of them as much as that I just don't like the person I become when do those things anymore. Of course, thats a broad statement, because there are things about me that are great. I have a great sense of humor, I am as loyal a friend as you will find, I generally treat people how I want to be treated, and even in sin, I am a nice enough guy.

Curiously, with that realization has come a certain unwillingness to turn back to God, though it is clear to me that he is gently putting me back on track. Why I can accept that and still resist doing something as simple as just going to Church, I have no idea. P

In any case, humor has always been the one thing that focuses me and brings me happiness (go figure, laughing makes me happy...), and your blogs have done more for me in the last week than any pastor could have done in years. Maybe it's odd that I relate to God easier when I am laughing, but it seems to be working!

JamieLee said...

Amen to that!

I wrote a post today on kind of a similar subject, about not pretending with each other anymore.

If you get a chance, I linked the post as my URL.

Dan Ewald said...

I love how back in Christian school, kids used to outdrama each other when it came to unspokens.

I think the record was 6. One girl had 6 unspokens we were supposed to pray for.

("Dear Lord, we want to pray for Mandy's first unspoken. And her second. Lord, please work out her third upspoken and bring about a positive result for her fourth unspoken. And Lord, really move in Mandy's fifth and sixth upspoken...)

Smiles2322 said...
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Smiles2322 said...
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