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so, i'm sitting here thinking about prayer requests.

and i'm wondering. what is it about the universally requisite Small Group Prayer Request Time that seems to get us all hyper-focused on -- and this is going to sound SO wrong, but just keep reading -- other people? i'm not saying there's anything wrong with praying for your cousin's sister-in-law's babysitter's mom's car troubles. but. i find it curious when no personal prayer requests are offered. now, i understand that a request on behalf of certain situations involving one's husband is sort of like a request for oneself... but... not really. what about YOU? surely there are things rolling around inside of you, inside all of us that we can accept prayer for...

are we too afraid? not willing to be so vulnerable with one another? i'll be the first to admit that it's far easier to bring up someone else's troubles instead of my own. perhaps we don't believe our own requests are important enough. or we want to let everyone believe that everything is just fine. or we don't want people to feel sorry for us. or we believe that we don't deserve prayer. hell, i don't know. maybe we really are all compassionate humble creatures focused on everyone else's needs, and i'm just a cynical oaf.

i put myself out there a couple of weeks ago and shared my thoughts and struggles with my group as a prayer request. in a room full of married and/or engaged women, no less, which of course did nothing to ease my insecurities. at the time it seemed odd [not to mention frightfully intimate] to offer... so abstract, so open-ended, so ridiculously vulnerable. in hindsight, it now seems odd that it would seem odd. if not there, then where else? in what other situations could it possibly be more appropriate? but now i'm feeling a little gun-shy. a silly little well, i put myself out there, now how about you guys? game in my head. stupid. but there it is.

at any rate, i'm certainly not implying anything about this particular group. it's merely one in a long line of groups where i've pondered the same. does anyone else share similar thoughts? or am i just a dirty heathen that doesn't care about the needs of others during prayer request time?

Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 10:55PM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments8 Comments

Reader Comments (8)

I think it is just so much easier during prayer time to gloss over our personal struggles. It is easier to share the needs of other people rather than share our own. Part of it I think is a want to not be vulnerable and part of it atleast for me is because when I scratch the surface of something, it all comes out. Instead of being a thirty second prayer request it would turn into like a ten minute emotional event that would bring out the real but ugly side of me. I would rant, rave, be judgemental, and say things that might taint others opinion of not only me but other people involved in my story.

I also struggle with asking God for things. Example, years ago I prayed and prayed that God would give me this job I really wanted. When I didn't get it I got all emotional, cried and questioned my self-worth. A few years later after I had a different job, I reflected on that job I had wanted to very badly and I realized how much better off I was because I didn't get it. God's will and direction for my life seems so much better than the things I think I want in my life that I have trouble asking for things for myself and I get tired of asking that God's will be done. Broken record syndrome.
Nov 16, 2005 at 11:34PM | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
There are two reasons I might not share a prayer request for myself in a small group setting. 1) I may not yet feel comfortable sharing intimate details of my life with that group. This takes time and a build up of trust. Trust, however, needs to be given, at least in part, before it can be earned, so this can work against me. 2) I sometimes feel ashamed of my thoughts or actions that are behind my need. Maybe I caused my own trouble, or I'm angry at someone event though I shouldn't be. This too is troublesome, because I have to be honest about those things in my life in order to be real to others. But it's hard to say, "I'm just really angry for petty reasons, and that's how I feel, so pray for me and this jerk who made me mad." Often, instead of prayers and support, I get critics and offers for unwanted help in solving my problem. I think you know what I mean by that. I'm not sure how to solve these issues other than just to take risks and build trust and hope for the best. Sounds scary. It is. And I think that's why more of us don't take the risk.
Nov 17, 2005 at 03:29PM | Unregistered CommenterJared
dirty heathen.

Nov 17, 2005 at 09:27PM | Unregistered Commenterpaul
I think you're absolutely right. It is so difficult sometimes to ask for help for yourself. Asking for someone else is a piece of cake, but putting your own emotions on the line is much harder.
I also agree with Jared that not validating your own feelings makes it a lot harder to ask someone else to do so.
Nov 18, 2005 at 10:44AM | Unregistered CommenterTB
This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately--not specifically prayer requests in small groups, but how to be vulnerable with others in general. I'm definitely the sort to ask for prayer on behalf of anyone else rather than confess my own struggles in a small group. Sometimes it's been because I probably couldn't have even gotten the words out--I would have just broken down and started sobbing. Yes, those were probably the times I needed to confess the most. I can be self-sabotaging that way.

But I'm trying to learn that to refuse to be vulnerable, to refuse to confess my struggles to those who are there to support me is as much of a wrong as to refuse to be compassionate when they are vulnerable and confess their struggles to me. Not an easy lesson to put into practice. But perhaps living that lesson will do more good than prayers for my cousin's sister-in-law's babysitter's car trouble.
Nov 18, 2005 at 02:29PM | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I'm so glad you said this. I really zone out when people start talking about their sister's friend's cousin's daughter's teacher who has a spinter.
Nov 18, 2005 at 02:30PM | Unregistered Commenterjessi
I think all of this is very good. I think it's a misguided attempt to seem "spiritual" by:

1. Making it seem like you never have any struggles.

2. Avoiding a perception of selfishness. All these other people are sharing about illnesses and requests on behalf of other people, and here you are saying, "I just haven't felt like reading my Bible over the last weeks." How can you think about yourself when all these other people have *legitimate* problems.

3. Fearing that you are the only one.

I think these three are obviously related with a good bit of overlap, but somewhat different. And I think people who knowingly engage in #1 often contribute--inadvertently or vertently (is that a word?)--to the self-doubt of people who are engaging in #2 and #3 out of legitmate but ultimately groundless fears.
Nov 18, 2005 at 03:44PM | Unregistered Commentermeegs
I actually put more than "dirty Heathen" I did a second post... but it didn't make it. I agree with meegs... I think often it is a way to seem spiritual.. maybe even that you are SO concerned with others that you would never even think of praying for yourself.
Nov 18, 2005 at 04:54PM | Unregistered Commenterpaul

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