Prayer Letter... but not as we've known it
by Lynette Woods
I have received quite a number of prayer letters over the past couple of months, with prayers (petitions) addressed to many people, telling us what to pray and give praise for... With some it is good to read their news, but these letters don't usually make me feel part of their lives; instead they often make me feel like an outsider. Why is this?
Is it because the letters are impersonal and therefore not relational and real? Is it because often people (and their support) are being sought instead of You? Is it because it often looks like soliciting and marketing for "support" instead of trusting You? Is it because people appear to have more trust and faith in MANY people praying than in trusting You to lead whoever You want praying? Is it because it is Your role to lead us what to pray and for whom? Is it because so often the unspoken implication of these letters is that the ones writing are more worthy of and thus require more prayer than others?
Oh Father... is this just me or is this Your heart I am feeling? Why does this grieve me so much? Why do I see things so differently to others? Many would be offended by me even asking such questions...
We have a list of "contacts" and personal friends that I could send a prayer letter to, but YOU are the One I pray to and You are the One Who leads me to pray, and who am I to tell Your children what they should be praying for? I desire for all of us to be praying with You and through You rather than being motivated by what we think or write. I could not begin to tell someone what to pray for me and my family because I just do not know. If I have learned anything in living with You, it is that You so often surprise me and do things so differently than I would expect! Often what You know I most desperately need is not at all what I would pray or ask prayer for in difficult situations, so why would I trust my own judgment and tell others what ought to be prayed for me or somebody else?
Many times I have known Your prompting to pray for someone and have prayed with You for that person before they even mentioned their need, and You have done the same thing in prompting friends to pray for me, so I trust You to lead us to pray and to give us the words You want us to pray, when You need us to... I know how desperately I need prayer; thank You so much that You always provide all that I need! I love what you had Paul write: "He who did not withhold or spare even His own Son but gave Him for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all things... He Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us? Who shall ever separate us from Christ's Love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress?"
And what about my brothers and sisters who feel alone and may not have anyone to write to about their trials and triumphs... how do these prayer letters make them feel? Are they, and their ministry to You in private, any less important than those who "minister" to many people in Your Name and receive lots of "support"? I know that their hidden ministry to You is precious and treasured; so Father, please keep these ones hidden in You, and please strengthen, encourage and reward them with Yourself. May they know without a doubt that they are vital members of this Family and that we are all equal in Your sight. Not one of us is more special than another, we are all one in You and what affects one affects all.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't share things because I know that You want us to share our trials and triumphs with each other! But I see that sharing those things is something that naturally occurs with people I know intimately, as opposed to people with whom I don't have a close REAL-ationship. Often You lead us to pray for each other through this personal sharing and connecting of lives and that feels real whereas the sharing in a prayer letter somehow feels false, artificial and contrived to me...
Father, I even find the "points for praise" in these letters upsetting because the focus seems to be on these people and their "ministry" rather than on You... I guess thus engendering further support from people. It feels so manipulative, religious, and unreal. Are they truly giving You ALL the glory and credit or are they delighting in "being used of God" and is that feeding their flesh? Oh Father... how can we even think of "having a ministry" when all true ministry is Yours and not ours?
Dear Father, please forgive us for those times when we unknowingly promote ourselves. Forgive us for deceiving ourselves and feeding our pride under the guise of being used by You. Please forgive us for trying to make things happen ourselves instead of waiting on You and trusting You. Please forgive us for the times when we have tried to manipulate others into doing what we think they should without knowing Your heart and without trusting You with them. Oh Father, forgive us for being so selfish, self centred and self promoting. Please forgive us for insinuating ourselves and our ideas into what is holy. Please give us a clear vision of what You desire and please help us to settle for nothing less than that. Please cleanse us and make us a holy people, without mixture, pure and worthy of being Your children... Please forgive me if I am viewing these things through my own eyes instead of Yours, and please continue to reveal and show me more of Yourself and what You see...
Father, please open our eyes to see that we are free in You; that we are free from the bondages of religion and man's methods, traditions and ordinances! Free from doing what WE think we ought to do and free from doing what others want us to do! Free to do and be all that YOU want! Free from comparing ourselves with others and earning brownie points! Free from the bondages of insecurity because we are secure and thoroughly loved in You - not because of what we do or have done, but simply because of Who YOU are!
Many of these prayer letters talk about what people are going to do in 2005 and I don't even know what You have in mind for us to do tomorrow let alone this year! Father, although I don't know what this year holds for us yet, I absolutely delight and rest in knowing that You know exactly what is ahead and that You will be there with me to lead me through every moment of it. Thank You so much for that... I could not get through one minute without You; You are my Breath, my Life and my Heart; my World!
Well, Father, I guess I should end this "prayer letter" the same way that all good prayer letters end: thanking You for Your continued prayers and support! :-) You know how desperately I need You interceding for me; this letter is probably a very good example of why You must!!! Thank You so much for Your intercession and for Your never-ending, persistent Love for me.
"The Holy Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. And He who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes and pleads before God in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God's will. We are assured and know that all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and Purpose." Romans 8:26-28.