Tuesday, August 26, 2014

That "prayer book"

In some churches these days, it seems, an exercise book is circulated during Sunday worship. People are invited to write prayer requests in it and at the time of intercession, it is given to the worship leader and many of the entries are incorporated. Some are even read out word for word whether they are expressed as prayer or not.

I am very uncomfortable with this intimate link between personal aspirations and public prayer. I am sure many will have given more thought to this than me but--
  • All too often people in the congregation have no idea what or who is the intended beneficiary of prayer. That seems to cut across a fundamental principle that if nothing else, intercessory prayer is good for those who pray...  How can we do that without meaning?
  • At its worst, the prayer book becomes a conduit for gossip on a grand scale, by imparting information that would otherwise not be known...
  • The practice seems to encourage the idea that worship is about what we can gain from God rather than an awareness that in worship we are bringers and givers... 
  • The implication that we may be able to change what happens because we have prayed always raises implications about what "God" does or does not do for those for whom we have not prayed. I am astonished by the thanks given that this person or that has been "saved" or "cured" or even "returned to our congregation"..
  • The whole issue of intercessory prayer is sharpened fearfully by these specifics of some requests in the book. What is our image of God when we ask for special favours at the crude level that sometimes appears? Can we not leave this element of public prayer to our worship leaders (though even some of them sound like a kind of congregational wish-list)?
  • Fundamentally, however, the use of a prayer book can easily contravene our country's Privacy Act which does not allow one's personal circumstances to be made public without permission... We should not do it.
I have told our minister that I am not giving permission for my name to be read out in public worship as a subject for prayer.  I guess that won't change much. And, as anyone knows who reads this blog, I want to be open and honest about my circumstances. But I want to do it myself. 

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