Re-thinking Facebook Prayer Requests

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOut of a light-hearted reaction to a question I’m asked quite often, I posted an update on my FB status that indicated the next time someone asks me what I plan on doing after seminary I might just go postal. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing this week. Then I added “pray for me”.  Of course its not always obvious in the one dimensional on-line format when when is serious or just being silly. In this case, it was the latter….pray that I don’t go postal on people. It was kind of a joke. Though I appreciated the people that indicated they were praying, it felt a bit hypocritical of me to send that out since I’ve come to the conclusion to not send out prayer requests on Facebook or Twitter.

On a more serious note, let me explain. I have come to the increasing conviction of how we utilize social media for pray requests. And when I say social media, I mean the feed that everybody sees, not private messages. Now, I want to be delicate here because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m downplaying the importance of prayer, that I don’t want people praying for me, or that we should not pray for others. Please don’t go there.  In fact, it is the significance of prayer that leads me to believe how blanket prayer requests on FB can actually undermine it.

For all the good that social media has done in connecting people and ideas together, it has also burdened us in a way. If you are an active social media user like me, just thinking about how much of the information you are exposed to now you would have been exposed to a decade ago.  Its a pretty big difference. This exposure has an overwhelming effect, which has actually created a greater superficiality. Just because we have a snippet of information does not mean we have substantial information. But more importantly, we have an expanded amount of superficial information through which requests come. Continue reading

Prayerlessness: Another Option

Tim Challies posted some good thoughts on prayer recently in Prayerlessness is Selfishness after reading H.B Charles, Jr. book.  I haven’t read the book, but I am a firm believer in prayer and believe that signals dependence on God. Well, of course this is what Challies is driving at – that when we don’t pray, we are not depending on God and with that comes the statement ‘I can do this myself’

“The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own.” – H.B. Charles, Jr.

And I’ve heard this many times before. It’s not that I disagree with the statement, for I certainly do think that can be a signal of self-reliance. But, I think there is another option that typically gets overlooked, that I fear far too many Christians experience: Discouragement.

It is one thing to not bring things to God in prayer with an underlying assumption that we can handle it ourselves. It is something entirely different to bring Him everything in prayer in faith believing that He will take care of it, completely dependent on Him, only to be met with…Silence. And by silence, I mean inactivity. Nothing.

Now, I do believe that God uses times of silence to test our hearts, purge out sin and build our faith in Christ and be found in Him. We should not expect that He will immediately act upon our requests or otherwise be some genie in a bottle that grants our every wish. There is a reason for dry times and seemingly lack of movement on God’s part. To be sure, it is very well a process of divine discipline (cf. Hebrews 12) Continue reading

Wishing, Waiting and a White Winter Coat

lady in white winter coatSome of my most fond memories growing up were the summer and winter vacations I spent in Chicago with my grandparents. I was born there but my parents moved to Southern California when I was little. My parents divorced when I was 6 and then  after my mom died when I was 9, the Chicago treks turned into twice a year – most of the summer and a week during Christmas break.

My grandmother would take me on many shopping trips downtown, with the late summer trips geared for the purpose of buying school clothes. But one trip stood out above the rest. This one particular summer, just before my junior year, during a school clothes purchase trip, I saw this beautiful white winter coat. It was unlike anything I had ever seen: pulled white wool with these classy puffed out sleeves and very fashion forward for the early 1980s. I was not particularly a fashionista at the time, but I knew I would look good in that coat. And it was thin enough to be useful in California.

Well, my grandmother being the pragmatic person she was presented me with a choice. I could get the coat but that would significantly cut into my school clothes purchases. She was right and her wisdom won out. As much as I loved the coat and wanted it, I had to be practical and get what I needed. After all, I didn’t really need the coat but man I sure did want it. It was a desire.

When I went back for the winter break the day after Christmans, of course one of the first things I did was to open my birthday and Christmas gifts. As I opened one rather large box, my eyes began to light up. Could it be? Yes! My grandmother had brought the coat that I wanted so much. I was giddy because a desire had been fulfilled. But more than just getting a coat, what I really loved about the gift was that my grandmother responded to something she knew would make my heart glad. Continue reading

Cracking the Door to 2013

door_ajarHave you ever entered a room where you flung the door open? No doubt, there is an enthusiasm and hopeful anticipation about what is beyond that door. We fling the door open because we are anxious to get there, most likely because there is something positive worth all the energy.

Conversely, cracking the door portrays a hesitancy and caution. Uncertainty of expectations produces a slow glimpse. Maybe there’s something there but not knowing what may be in store. Just a little peak to see if it’s worth opening to enter. Slow. Uncertain. Cautious. Questioning.

As 2012 draws to a close, I find myself cracking the door to 2013. Well of course I have no control over the entrance because whether I like it or not, the new year will begin. There’s nothing magical about the flip of a calendar. But each new year does bring with it hope – hope for change, hope for something better, hope for answered prayers.

I would love to swing the door open and embrace the new year. But as I reflect back over the past year, the reflection causes the year to bleed into the past few years – 4 to be exact since I moved to Dallas to go to seminary. It’s been a trying time of exposing, pruning, purging and barrenness. Trying beyond my wildest imagination. It’s exposed areas of my life where I long for restoration and change. A number of prayers, personal prayers have gone unanswered. The disappointment has been discouraging at times and breeds caution because disappointment has a way of strangling hope and tempering expectation. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it is what it is. Continue reading

Walking the Tightrope of Sovereignty and Hope

I spent many years as a Charismatic and Word of Faith adherent. It was pretty common to embrace the notion of speaking life over circumstances (as if God was obligated to obey that) and believing that if one just stood on faith circumstances would work out in their favor. Add to that, being convinced that whatever subjective and often arbitrary “voice of God” led to the right to believe for certain outcomes. Well there are certainly concerns regarding that position, primarily that  these beliefs and practices undermine the sovereignty of God. The idea that we can have what we say in accordance with subjective leadings, smacks of human initiated and self-focused rights that presumes works on behalf of our bidding.

A survey of all 66 books of the bible should shout in our face that all request and desires are subject to the will of God.  Depending on what view of sovereignty you ascribe to, scripture is understood to deem God in ultimate control of his purposes being carried since he “works all things according to the council of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11).  To think that our prayers, desires and verbal proclamations can override what God intends is myopic at least and irreverent at worse.

I am of the conviction that everything happens by God’s sovereign choice, including election of His people (how we are called into God’s family). Yet on the other hand, I wonder if our deep awe and respect for God’s sovereignty can temper our expectations to irrelevancy that is concerned with very little beyond being accepted in the family of God.  Don’t get me wrong, we should be grateful for a deep and abiding grace that can turn an enemy of God into His beloved child and friend.  Regardless of your view of election, the fact is it had to begin with an extension of His grace made available to those who did not deserve it. It should produce a reverent fear that puts our humanity, with all of its wants and needs in perspective. Continue reading