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I Can't Pray For You by Bob Hyatt


I need you people to stop sending me prayer requests via email. I mean it... just stop. In fact, I want you to stop sending them to just about everyone else, too. I know that you care about these people... these needs you send my way. And you want others to know, to care, to pray. You want to feel a sense of connection, of community with a larger group of people, people who may, even just for a moment, feel some of the same concern you are feeling. But the truth is, there is a cost to what you are doing.


Kevin Bacon Needs Your Prayers!

It used to be so much easier. Once upon a time we lived in smaller communities, we knew fewer people. We had a finite number of people we were responsible to know, to care for, to pray for. News from around the world came infrequently and often late. The world was just smaller.


When tragedy struck someone we knew, we had the ability to stop, to help... to care. We could keep up with someone's progress, contribute to their healing, pray for their well-being. All that has changed now.


The problem is that we are too connected. It's so easy now to forward our needs to literally thousands of people, people connected to us only in the most tangential, six-degrees-of-Kevin Bacon kind of ways; people we will never meet, people we will never thank for praying. People who should, in fact, be busy caring for others.


Now stop... I know what you are thinking. Yes, we'll meet those people someday in heaven. Yes, we should care, and it takes so little time to just throw up a quick prayer. But don't you understand?  That's not how we are supposed to pray


Jesus talked about persistent prayers, heartfelt prayers... prayers that welled up out of the soul like cries for help from a widow with nothing and no one, who's about to lose what little she does have because of injustice and an uncaring judge. Prayer that goes hand in hand with tears. Prayer that feels like we're trying to knock down the very doors of heaven.


You've Got Tragedy!

I sit at my desk all day long and sometimes it gets so bad, I just delete them without even reading them. Ding! Cancer. Ding! Car wreck. Ding! Lost job. There have been days when I have received so many prayer requests from so many places I begin to think that God must be asleep. Maybe He lost interest and looked away and now the world is slowly veering off into a ditch. I hate feeling that way.


The problem is that when tragedy strikes anywhere in the world, we instantly know about it.  And the cost is that we are being asked to care about more and more every day, and so find ourselves caring less and less. I can care a good deal about ten people. I can remember them, their problems, their praises very well. For 100 people I can still care, I can still pray, but less effectively. For a thousand? For a million? I try the arrow prayers. I shoot up a quick  "God please work in this situation." And then I hit delete. And I'm pretty sure God says "Is that the extent of your caring in this situation? Why bother?" 


We were made to carry each others burdens but we were never made to carry the burdens of so many. Why do we believe that a thousand quick prayers from people who don't know the individuals or the situation are somehow better than ten from people who really care, can follow up, can actually be involved? And if you think that the two are not mutually exclusive, let me tell you that they are.


I know you want to have certain people that will pray intensely and then send those requests out to the larger mass who may say a quick prayer and then forget about it. But those ten people that you know are loving, caring prayer warriors... their inboxes are being flooded everyday too. The people you know and depend on to care for you are being bombarded with requests to care for people from all over the world, and so necessarily can care less for you.


Prayer That Availeth Much

I don't want a thousand people praying for me. I want ten. But I want those ten to pray with such fervor, such intensity, such persistence... I want them to love me enough to pray without ceasing and I want to pray for them the same way. I want to take their requests and bang on the doors of heaven until God hears, until He answers. And then, together, we can offer thanks. We can throw a party because God answered, because God intervened.


Do you have anyone that's praying for you that way? Why not? Maybe it's because they're too busy trying to care for too many. Maybe they're hesitant about committing to that kind of prayer because they know that it may mean intentionally leaving some other prayers unsaid. But just maybe it's because you haven't asked. Perhaps there are some people in your life who would step up and stand in the gap for you if you just asked them to.


We should be people of prayer. We should even care for others outside of our immediate circles. We should pray for people around the world when needs are made known to us. And even more than prayer, we should act when we can, when God gives us the resources to step into a situation and be a part of the solution. But we should be careful that we do not so burden others with our needs, with our requests for them to care about us that we make it a practical impossibility for them to care about anyone.


So, if you'd just think long and hard before hitting that forward button, I'd appreciate it.


about the author

Bob Hyatt is a recovering youth pastor, husband and father-to-be who dreams of a teaching pastor position in a church that recognizes the spiritual value inherent in a good cup of coffee



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