One of my pet peeves is praying only for sick people. I know that praying for the sick is important and should be a priority. I know that it is something that can bring great blessing to the church and great glory to God. If I were sick, or my family were sick, I would want you to pray for them. My gripe is that churches can fall into a rut when it comes to prayer. It has been my experience in most every church I have ever attended that the prayer time was actually a list of who was in the hospital, who was down with the flu, or who was about to pass away. It always seemed to me in those moments that we were praying for what we knew would already happen. We would pray for healing if someone had the flu and for the doctors to have wisdom if someone had cancer. It never seemed that we were praying for the glory of God to be deomonstrated in powerful and miraculous ways through our prayer for the sick. That doesn’t necessarily mean healing, although I think the bible teaches us to pray for that.
Over the years, I have developed the opinion that you can gauge the spiritual depth and health of the church by simply listening in on their corporate prayer. If the language used in prayer only deals with the physical well being of the body, then there might be some deeper sickness present that we need to deal with.
If my opinion has any truth to it at all, then I am greatly encouraged by my church fellowship in Frankfort. Every Monday we recieve a copy of the prayer requests of the congregation which they fill out via a tear-out in the bulletin. Many in our congregation take advantage of this powerful yet quiet ministry. Still many more could. A cross sampling of these requests looks simply like a list of names. Many of these names are indeed prayers for the sick and dying. Yet the names on these sheets also represent those struggling with addictions, failing marriages, and financial difficulties. There are missionaries present. The pastors and staff of our church are lifted up. Government officials are named. One person prays that “Buck Run [would be] on fire for revival.” One woman prays that “her older daughter would come back to God.” Another prays for “my husband…to come to know Jesus as his Savior.”
When the church prays well, we become well. There is no substitute for the power of prayer in the individual or corporate life. I am encouraged to hear these very honest and sincere prayers issue forth from our congregation. They tell the story of a people who, although struggling and sinful, still seek God’s face on matters that bring him glory. They tell the story of a people who realize their dependence on God. So now, when I pray for the sick it is accompanied by a joy that I must confess I have not felt in a long time. That’s my sin. My soul rejoices that I am among a people who has learned to pray expectantly, with fervor, and in faith. There are many graces yet to enjoy from Him who gives us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. May we continue to seek Him.