Why My Church Rarely Does “Prayer Requests”

Ah, the prayer request. The quintessential Christian experience–sitting around in a circle, sharing often benign, usually safe, terribly tame “prayer requests” with one another.

They usually sound something like this: “I really need a new job or a pay raise. So pray for that please.” Or “My fiance and I are trying to figure out when to get married. Please pray that God would tell us.”

(Let me also preface this post by stating that I am not anti-prayer request. of course not. I have been apart of many groups, be it Bible studies or women’s groups where prayer requests were a welcome and important part of gathering. But God has also shown me something different…)

It’s funny because after becoming a believer, I just went right along with the whole “prayer request” model. I didn’t know any differently. I certainly didn’t know any better. Why would I? Except that when I look in scripture I see no prayer request like model. Now, I’m not one of those people who says “If it ain’t in the Bible, don’t do it.” Please, no. The Bible isn’t exhaustive because God is an infinite God. I don’t try to squeeze Him into a few hundred pages.

All that to say, just because prayer requests aren’t in there, doesn’t mean scripture says nothing about prayer, in general. It says a lot about prayer in fact. But, don’t worry I’m not about to give you an overview of what the Bible says about prayer (zzzzzzz….).

What I am going to give you, however, is a glimpse into how my church family prays for one another which does not usually include prayer requests. Hopefully, you be encouraged to read about another way to pray.

Corporate Prayer

Our church gathers corporately once a week. This is by no means the only time we see one another in a week, but it is when the majority of us are represented. We follow 1Corinthians 14:26 as our guide “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

Which means some of us teach, some of us offer up a psalm or a song, some of us have a word of instruction, and so on. Sometimes, however, the Holy Spirit is shining a spotlight on a specific individual. It’s as if God wants us to stop what we were doing or change the direction we were headed and instead minister to this person.

So we do. We will temporarily suspend (or altogether abandon) what we were doing so that we can minister to those who need it. This sometimes involves another member of the church having a word for them. Sometimes not. Sometimes, the spotlight is so bright it blinds us and we all collectively feel the need to lay hands on a person either with or without a word given.

Or very often, a person might begin to share with the body about what God was doing in their life that week. They may start to explain their struggles from the week or their hurts. Or they may just be sharing a piece of encouragement. Either way, if they need prayer it is evident. Another person will usually initiate prayer by going over to them…and get this, starting to pray.

We then gather around that person–all 40 or 50 of us–and lay hands on them. (As an aside, at the end of our corporate meeting we have a time of ministry where we pray for each other in groups of 2- to maybe 7 or 8 people. This time of prayer also follows the description that follows and it is amazing…)

The Holy Spirit and the Whole Man

Here is where it gets interesting…

The Spirit begins to move. People begin to pray in and through the Spirit. Some pray quietly, some boldly, but every prayer is led by the Spirit. Which means that it is God who is directing the prayer, not us.

And very often, the prayer request that was given is not what the Lord begins to speak to. Very often, we watch as God opens up the quiet, untouched, often dark places of a person’s soul. Very often, God’s agenda is different from our own. Very often, Jesus has something else to say altogether.

So that is what we begin to pray–the words the Spirit is speaking because He knows us, really knows us. He knows what we truly need prayer for, the root of a thing, the origin of pain or hurt or loss or need.

He intercedes with groanings too deep for words. He doesn’t need our prayer request because at the end of the day, God is concerned with more than our physical needs.

Jesus desires to heal the whole man.

When we look at the Gospels, we see our Lord meeting needs in very practical ways with food, physical healing, and the like, but that was never the only thing He offered. A drink of water drawn from a well, while momentarily satisfying, is vaporous compared to the Living Water that quenches our soul.

Jesus heals the whole man.

He meets our physical needs in order that He might save our souls, heal our spirits, bind our hurts, free us from ourselves.

And time and time again, this is what I have seen in my church family–that as we step back and allow the Holy Spirit room to move and quietness to speak, He never intends to only meet an earthly need. He always intends to do more. He heals the whole man because He loves the whole man.

Prayer requests not required.

Thoughts? Reactions? Do you pray like this? If not, what does prayer often look like in your church or home?