Can asking for prayer ever be a burden?
That might sound like a strange question. It just might be right now, but hear me out. I am not talking about prayer requests that turn into gossip. Those requests that ask for prayer for uncle Bill’s and aunt Martha’s marriage only to go on to give intimate details of the problems. No. Not those kind.
The potential burden comes from people asking others who have ongoing prayer requests about those requests. Let me explain further.
I did not know this to be a real issue at first until speaking with several people from different churches. Constant asking for updates on a prayer request can lead to probing questions on said request.
For example, a person could have an ongoing injury or illness. Then, every time that person is with the church gathered they are overwhelmed with questions like – How is your injury/illness? While that is understandable the people asking do not often realize they may be the 10th person asking in a very short period of time. The person might even be grieving about a particular issue.
A good illustration of this is found in the movie The Wedding Singer. Right after the wedding singer (who is the main character) is stood up at the marriage altar by his fiancee he meets with some friends. One guy in the group probes him about being stood up. The wedding singer replied..
“No, It felt really good. Thanks for bringing it up man. You know my parents died when I was ten, would you like to talk about that?”
That should help the perspective a little, but there is a little more to the story.
I have been told that other questions often get asked like:
- Did you try XYZ for your injury/illness, etc.?
- Have you thought about XYZ treatment, etc.?
To put this in perspective, think of asking a cancer patient or someone who just had a leg amputated questions like:
- With so many people diagnosed with cancer did you ever think about changing your diet prior to being diagnosed?
- Are you really doing all you can in your treatments?
- Does it bother you that your hair is falling out so soon from treatments?
- Did you really do everything you could to save your leg?
- I see how you’re limping, have you tried walking like this?
- Couldn’t the doctors have done more?
- It has only been a week, but do you miss your leg yet?
Constant inquiry on how one is doing combined with questioning how one is treating their injury/illness just weigh on the person. They act as constant reminders of their struggles. The questioning comes across as second guessing the person that they are not doing all they can to take care of their problems.
The people with the injury/illness might live daily struggling and praying to get well. I have been told that the questioning makes it that much harder to deal with. It can even make fellowship hard because of what seem like thoughtless questions. The injured/ill have most likely sought out several options and gone over them with their doctor(s). Yes, they have probably even been on WebMD.
Fairness to the concerned is due, however.
The people asking those injured/ill mean no harm. Even when they suggest “solutions” and appear to second guess they are trying to be helpful. They really do care. That is why they are asking. The intent is to help the person get well as they continue praying. The intentions are noble, but can come across as inconsiderate in a given situation.
This is where the injured/ill need to have some grace. They need to understand that people are only trying to care for them. They should be thankful for the concern and prayers.
So how do Christians better communicate in these situations? As mentioned above, these are not isolated occurrences. These experiences come from different people in different churches.
Seeking advice for future edification.
- Have any of you had any experiences like the above? Care to share how you dealt with the situation?
- What is the best way to explain to people who care and question like above?
- Thoughts in general on the whole situation?
Remember, be gracious in your reply.