|by Albrecht Durer, ca. 1508|
My friend and colleague, Jody Bormuth, recently posted about her wonderful experience of the support and encouragement, as well as prayer support, her family received through “the stronger and deeper family of God made visible” through responses to her requests for prayer (and one in particular) on Facebook. Her post can be found here: http://godluvdjody.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/the-stronger-and-deeper-family-of-god-made-visible/. Below are my thoughts in response to hers.
Thank you, Jody, for your thoughtful post and the inspiration to take more seriously my communications with my Christian brothers and sisters, even on Facebook. From your post and some prayerful consideration, the following thoughts emerged.
Like many others, I often struggle with the communication styles and sometimes shallow platitudes offered in response to authentic and heart-felt status updates. Still, Facebook prayer requests have yet to catch up with two of the more difficult realities of other means of gathering prayer support (prayer chains and open-forum prayer in Christian gatherings), and a third problem with prayer requests would seem to be almost impossible on Facebook as well.
|"You need prayer? How could you have let that happen?!"|
|Don't ask this guy for prayer.|
The third factor favoring Facebook is the almost total absence of “The Telephone Game.” Most are familiar with the party game in which a phrase is whispered from one to another until it reaches the last of the guests, with the result that the statement becomes significantly altered, and sometimes incomprehensible. This phenomenon, warping and morphing the request into something far different than what was initially requested, is endemic among prayer chains of my acquaintance.
For example, I recently received a call asking whether one of our older members was being treated at our local, small, and reasonably-competent, but limited-in-services hospital, or at the state-of-the-art regional medical facility seventy or so miles away. When I hung up the phone, my wife expressed her confusion about the nature of the call. She’d heard who I had mentioned, and that the question concerned the two hospitals. It didn’t make any sense, given what else we knew about the patient. My explanation: “You need to remember that they heard about it through the prayer-chain. By the time it got to them, (our friend and parishioner) may not have been having a quadruple-bypass. They may have heard that she was having quadruplets.”
Of course, on Facebook, when similar miscommunications occur, it’s not necessary to blame any of the humans along the chain for misstating what they’ve heard, adding their more-detailed assumptions, or otherwise embellishing the facts of the matter. No, on Facebook, when something is miscommunicated, we can simply blame spell-check. I would, however, be surprised if Facebook doesn’t eventually catch up in all three areas, especially among those of us who let our devices read posts aloud to us, and then compose our responses by speaking them into text.
So, even on Facebook, three rules for prayer requests might be helpful:
- First, when a person asks for prayer, don’t blame them for having the need for prayer. Just pray.
- Second, when a person asks for prayer, don’t offer remedies for the need about which they’ve asked you to pray. Just pray.
- And third, when a person asks for prayer, do feel free to clarify anything you don’t understand about how they’d like you to pray. But then, leave it at that, and just pray.
The alternative, sadly, is to leave many of us in need of prayer, but questioning whether we’re willing to endure the gossip, the advice, and the blame. For the sake of an authentic, transparent, and vulnerable fellowship in Christ: Just pray.
|My advice: Drive over the signpost itself. Then, just pray.|