Last Summer, on a Sunday morning, I took my customary pew seat next to my customary pew-fellows – my parents. About three quarters of the way through the first song (a typical late arrival time) I was joined on my left by a large man with sleeves. Tattoo sleeves that is. Naturally, I felt myself inclined to pray for him and any need he may have. At least that’s how I felt until I stopped and realized I had just become a prejudiced pray-er. I looked in front of me, a nice family. I looked to my right, my dad. I looked up on stage, the worship leader. All these people needed prayer too.
I do not know if anyone else ever prays prejudicedly but as I thought about it I realized it came from a scary selfishness. I want the people who look put together to be put together. They do not need prayer certainly. If they did, well that would mean that they weren’t as great or as perfect or as impervious and then how could they ever pour into me? What’s more, if they need prayer, then that probably means that I am not self-sufficient and need prayer too – a tough pill to swallow.
Of course, I did not do any harm in praying for the tattoed man to my left (who actually, when I looked, had a very kind face and a warm smile), but I most likely do do harm by failing to pray for those around me who need it but do not look like it. I’m reminded of George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation, who prays for every one of his Facebook friends regularly – that’s 4987 people. People who look broken, people who look put together, it does not matter because George recognizes that they all need prayer.
Receiving prayer gets at the heart of our desire for self-sufficiency. To ask someone to appeal to someone else admits our own failure and our need for help. In a culture that denies the group in order to exalt the individual, seeking help is relegated to the back of our minds. Yet Jesus always tells us to reverse our priorities and this is one of those areas. Paul always adds his two cents too – pray without ceasing.
Too often we pretend that we do not need prayer by claiming that there’s nothing major. Perhaps we should start asking that people would pray that we become more reliant on the Lord.
Oh, and guess what. Later in the service, the pastor of my church asked the congregation to pray for him. We all need it but it is even better if we all want it.