October 29, 2008

I am not Going to Pray for my People this Week

Nope. Not going to do it. Usually I pray for each individual in our church by name every week. But I won't do it this week.

Why? Well, a few months ago I thought it might be a good idea, one week, instead of praying for every person ... to thank God for specifics about them - areas of growth, blessings received, ways they've blessed me or others, etc. And it ... was ... absolutely ... revolutionary.

OK, maybe not revolutionary ... but really helpful at least.

Sometimes, as a pastor, your prayers for your people start to sound like a bit of a pity-party with God. 'Lord, Jim Bob wasn't here on Sunday. That's two weeks in a row. Set him straight. And Lionel made a snide remark about my haircut. Help him be humble. And then there's Sudie Bell. You know what she's been up to, of course. I just don't know what we are going to do with a woman like that.' And on and on it goes. Sometimes in a complaining tone. Other times, even when the prayers are genuine and compassionate ... you finally say 'amen' and feel worse than you did before you prayed.

That is probably a faith problem. But it is also a problem of ungratefulness. If I were more consciously thankful for what God is up to in people's lives, I wouldn't be so tempted to whine to God ... and I wouldn't feel like the odds were so stacked against me when prayer reminds me of all the growth we still need to see. Noticing God's work has a tremendous way of helping you see the bright side of things (while not neglecting the 'Need's Improvements' on the report card, either).

So I decided to take one week per month and, instead of praying for the people, to praise God for them in specific ways. OK, maybe I pray for a few things ... pressing issues and souls. But by and large I just thank God all the way down through each of the 96 people who regularly attend PRBC. It has changed my perspective. If you do it (for your family, or church family, or office mates) it might change yours.

Try it out, pastor or not.

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