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? 

19 thoughts on “Why My Church Rarely Does “Prayer Requests””

  1. I can definitely relate to this. We do that in our home fellowship groups on a weekly basis. It’s so beautiful when God shows one person something for someone else and a prophetic word turns into God speaking many deep, healing words through multiple people.

    But I also know that not everyone always responds when God prompts them to say something to another person. I know many people walk away from a gathering or meeting with tons of hurts because they weren’t brave enough to be vulnerable and ask for prayer.

    I approach prayer in both ways. It’s my responsibility to be open, honest and vulnerable with my community and “let them in” to help me face my struggles. It’s also the responsibility of the community to find the hurting and minister God’s love.

    What happens if multiple people are highlighted but only one person gets the prayer? What if others get a word but are too afraid to speak up and share it?

    I know many times when someone finally got the courage to ask for prayer and as soon as that happened, two or three different people perk up and say, “God gave me a word for you but I wasn’t sure until you spoke up!”

    So again, I see both ways as fruitful.

    1. Tony,
      Have you ever been told you have the heart of a shepherd? Your comment to me highlights your desire to see those in the flock protected and enfolded.

      You raised some great points. I too know that people have left gatherings not having their needs met, but that has been their choice. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. During our “ministry time,” we communicate again and again that if you need to receive then assume the position– i.e. hands open, sitting and waiting for people to make their way to you for prayer.

      On the other hand, if you are ready to give then your position is hands being laid upon those who need to receive. This “model” works well for us. I hesitate to say model because we are always wanting to open to what the Spirit is doing, but you get the idea.

      Also, in terms of people having a word for someone and not speaking up–I believe that just comes from practice, trust, and being in a loving family environment. If you hear a word more than once but fail to speak only to find out it was true, well then, hopefully the Lord has built some confidence in you that you are hearing correctly.

      All that to say, this takes practice and it isn’t perfect. None of us are perfect, but our perfect God leads us as we humbly seek him. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. I’d love the opportunity to visit your home fellowship group someday!

  2. This is such an excellent job, Nicole! I absolutely love the quote you said He meets our physical needs in order that He might save our souls, heal our spirits, bind our hurts, free us from ourselves.

    That is so true, Nicole! I would also like to put that he wants us to pray for other people like Job did at the end, so that they could be blessed. We are put to be a blessing to other people’s lives, be the vehicle God wants to see lives changed. The blessing is not meant to be for just ourselves, so I love the point of being free from our selfisms. This was an excellent job. I like the prayer described the way you guys do it.

  3. This is such a great post, I wish my church did this. Its true that the Lord often wants to speak about something different than what we have in mind. I’m also not against prayer requests but I feel that people are often vague about their requests. If people really shared about their life, especially how their spiritual life is going or how it was the past week I think that we would be able to pray more specifically and that person would be blessed greatly.

    I think we are always asking for something, to use your example, someone may ask for prayer because they need a job. Instead I think what we really need to pray for is for the person to trust in the Lord and in his leadership and to wait on the Lord, the Lord knows our needs and he always supplies, the issue is not that we need to ask God for a job, its that we need to trust in Him. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask God for a job, but I think sometimes we need to change our focus and really realize that what we really need is for our faith to be strengthened so we can trust that God will provide and that the Lord sometimes just wants to teach us to rely on Him and his providence.

  4. hey, Nicole,
    Our church is Pastored/Managed by ex secular managers. Every activity and process during church meetings are corporate structured. Now, concerning praying and prayer and prayer requests. Our current Pastor macro manages and so do his sub-ministers. Prayer is emphasized but public prayer requests, considered inefficient, are submitted and read from the pulpit. Public prayer is coordinated in the front of the church and performed by selected personnel.
    Gotta go.


  5. I love this format, and it’s very similar to what we’ve used in the past in women’s groups. Right now I’m fairly desperate to find an organic home-based church because I am so tired of the typical American church model where one person is the “leader” and everyone else is considered sheep there to support the leader. It’s not that our church is bad, per se, it’s just that it’s still so tied up in religion, in what we need to do to get God to do “x” for us, and the focus is still so on US, instead of shifting focus to Jesus and what He accomplished.

    Unfortunately, if I formed an organic-type “church” right now, I’d be a congregation of 1, because even though I know some people who are dissatisfied with traditional church, they aren’t ready to leave the big worship band and events happening practically every day. ;o)

  6. I am a women’s bible study leader and we do “prayer requests”. However, there are times when we break the tradition and pray then and there for a woman in the group. I also give the caveat that we want to pray for each woman and her needs specifically not Aunt Myrtle’s bunion. Not perfect…but slowly moving them in the right direction!

    Agree with Mina above. I’d be a church of 1 also. How do you go about finding churches in our areas? Not a yellow pages listing for that…yet!!

  7. this sounds like you go to my church…we are the same way with several different people bringing a word – we have 3 different worship leaders who take different Sundays – and its not uncommon for it to be someone else who preaches rather than our pastor (some times 15 mins of one then 15 min of someone else and even though they did not discuss before hand their messages fit together )

    1. we also have some sundays where time in prayer is what we need and we spend most of the hour and a half service laying hands on others in need

  8. Prayer requests have of course become yet another cliched and expected reaction of the American churches. We all know this.

    However, what is prayer other than agreeing with what our Father wants to see happen in us? Like confessing sin, prayer is us merely acknowledging what He already knows.

    Is this to say that prayer then should be complacent or without desire, defaulting on the “Well, He knows what we’re going to pray for before we even pray it so what’s the point?” Of course not. Like an amazing Father, He enjoys and delights in us coming to Him with petitions, requests, and even questions wrought through prayer.

    For myself I usually don’t take prayer requests, but will instead ask point-blank “So, what needs to happen in your life that only our Father can accomplish?” Thus far it has worked swimmingly well. ;)

    As ever, Nicole, your posts leave me refreshed and edified. You rock.

  9. I appreciate this post. It is an encouragement to read this and know that God’s spirit is moving in similar ways and expressions all over. Two years ago I would not have been able to relate to the experiences you have shared here. I myself grew up in a culture of prayer requests and lives kept private in our church gatherings. God has been so gracious towards me and has led me to experience his Spirit through others who have this same type of mindset and openness in their faith journey. My husband and I are now able to lead others to Jesus in this way and it is so life-giving. The Spirit of God can and will always do more than we could ever imagine. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  10. I agree with Tony. I have seen vulnerability, honesty, and trust shine so much when folks are given an opportunity and prompting to share. We do not want to limit the Spirit, so we must be open to the reality that he is equally working in the extemporaneous and the structured.

    Maybe the issue is not so much how we pray, but what we are praying for. If all we do when we pray is treat God like a vending machine, then we fail to exercise such an important muscle of our faith (prayer). But if our request are small, and cosmic; if our requests are kingdom focused, changing the world, not just ours…I can dig that…request away!

  11. This makes my heart ache. I long so very, very much to be a part of a church family where members are cared for in such a manner. I currently attend a mid-size charismatic church, which I like for the most part, but so far I have been unable to really connect with anyone…and this has been the story of most of my experiences in the church. I joined a singles group, hoping to find meaningful fellowship and connections, but, like most churches, if we pray at all during our sessions, it’s very brief and based on “prayer requests,” it’s also mostly fun and games, and I leave each time feeling still so empty, hungry and hurting.

    I’m an introvert who takes awhile to open up to and get to know people, and I’ve found that most churches seem to cater to extroverts, and those of us “quiet folk” just seem to slip through the cracks, unnoticed. I do try. I try to put myself out there. But it just doesn’t seem to work for me. And I’m getting so frustrated. Meanwhile, the ache and emptiness inside, and the hunger for a real spiritual family just continues to grow, eating away at my soul. While I know Jesus alone is supposed to satisfy me, it’s very hard to have a relationship with Someone you can’t see and not experience Him in a more tangible way. So I’m jealous. Jealous of what you have. I guess all I can do is keep praying, because so far, as U2 says, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

    1. I know the feeling, trust me. I wish I could meet you (maybe one day in heaven)! God has given me a great passion for stories like yours. I’ve started an outreach ministry in my youth group for those kinds of situations. I want you to know that there are people who do care and love you, and there are people who are also having a hard time.
      God loves you, and He’s given me a love for you.

  12. I wish prayer at my in my church family looked like that. I have been in churches where it is very similar to what you’ve described, and it’s wonderful. Sometimes our prayer requests seem to be a billboard to tell everyone what has been going on with them instead of what they really need prayer for. Example
    “I got my drivers license today, so pray for safety.”
    That’s not a bad thing, but I wish people would be more real with each other and really open up, but I go to a large church and it’s very intimidating to open up.

  13. Sadly, I think the Church is dying for lack of praying like this. I really long for this to become a reality in every Christian gathering.

  14. I need plenty more belief, plenty more power of prayer and more Holy Ghost with me. Please pray also that God gives me gifts of God’s grade.

  15. Prayer Request :

    persecution demonic satanic and dark things done againts pastor Thieringo must stop and mustn’t have effect on him and must return againts those who do that . Fire of Holly Spirit must come on evil and bad things againts him. May Holly Spirit Jesus and God do justice to him . Protection , healing, wisdom, freedom, prosperity , miracles in finances, success and miracles in business, success and miracles in his life in Jesus Name .

    God bless You.

  16. Prayer Request :

    persecution demonic satanic and dark things done againts pastor Thieringo must stop and mustn’t have effect on him and must return againts those who do that . Fire of Holly Spirit must come on evil and bad things againts him. May Holly Spirit Jesus and God do justice to him .Protection , healing, wisdom, freedom, prosperity, miracles in finances, success and miracles in business, success and miracles in his life in Jesus Name .

    God bless You.

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