Chapter FOUR: Prayer Requests and the News Feed

Written by: Nathan Hill

Have you ever taken a look at the prayer bulletin at your church? I am not sure if your church still does this, but many churches will have a comprehensive list of all the prayer needs associated with church members and adherents printed in their bulletin each week. The idea behind this is to help the congregation know how to pray for each other and to help the prayer team and prayer meetings to be more focused.

I wonder, however, if anything would change if we called this list the weekly news feed instead of the prayer bulletin? If you have an account with Facebook—almost 2 billion people do—you will be familiar with the concept of the news feed. Each time when you log on to Facebook, you get to see a detailed list of everything that your friends have posted throughout the day. And, by some complicated algorithm, Facebook just seems to know what content will draw you in the most. For many people, even people savvy with the Internet and their time, the Facebook news feed can draw them in and keep them captive for far longer than they realize.

My point is this—does the prayer bulletin function as an information update on everyone’s lives that will then pass through the daily conversations of many people, or does the prayer bulletin function as a tool with which we actually sit down and pray? I’ve noticed that prayer bulletins are usually vague and centre around requests for healing from physical conditions. Rarely would I read, “Mr. and Mrs. B request prayer for their marriage” or “Mr. M requests prayer for his struggles with pornography.” These are valid prayer requests, but we would rarely see them in a prayer bulletin. I understand the desire for privacy, but I also wonder if this is because the prayer bulletin might function more as an information update and weekly conversation tool than an actual prayer tool.

Karen Ehman encourages us this week to zip it and pray—talk with God before others. That may be easier said than done. Some of us like to share other people’s news under the guise of a “prayer request” because this helps them to feel justified in sharing the information. Be careful about this:

Proverbs 10:19 “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”

Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” Daniel was a man of prayer, and we see in his life that he was able to maintain a strict diet and religious routine even while living in a foreign country. Moreover, he had the peace about him that God would deliver him from all adversity…and even if God did not, he would not relinquish his faith.

There is a place for talking with others—the Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. But here is something wise that I often share with my children when they are prone to tattling: Tell me about you, not about someone else. I challenge you to share your deepest prayer requests with others before you share news about other people—I bet this will help you to zip it and pray more often.