There is a phenomenon on the church today called the “unspoken” prayer request. Almost every Christian has experienced a moment when someone asks that we pray for their request that they didn’t share with us. The unspoken request could have been mentioned through tearful eyes and a shaky voice or through an expressionless face and a clear throat. Whatever the details may be, at some point there was someone asking for prayer about an unspoken situation or for a mysterious request.
Why do we do this? I’ll admit it. I have done it too. But why do we do it? Why is it not appropriate to say certain prayer requests out loud? Before we can go any further I must concede that there are certain things that should be left unsaid. Depending on the group there are obvious things that do not need to be shared. I don’t think, however, that most of the “unspoken” requests we share fall in that category. For the most part I believe the “unspoken” requests we share come from struggles we are going through that we are embarrassed to talk about.
Yes. There are legitimate reasons to keep the specifics of a prayer request private, but the problem with unspoken requests is that there isn’t a good way to follow up. There is no real accountability. If Steve is a compulsive liar but keeps asking for his “unspoken” there is no way anyone can help hold him accountable. If Laura’s parents are going through a divorce but we only know it as an “unspoken,” nobody can really come alongside and comfort her during her darkest hour. Are there times when we are not comfortable sharing a request in a corporate setting? Yes. But in those cases we need to find at least one or two other Christians who can knowledgably pray with us about it.
While unspoken requests begin in a seemingly innocent way the reality is that they are killing the church. The more prevalent they become the more destructive doors they open for the Enemy to attack us. The most prevalent door that they open is church disunity. Galatians 6:2 is very clear that when we come together we do so to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” The body of Christ is there to help and give aid when a part of the body is hurting. The very imagery of a “body” suggests the need for the whole church to be functioning together. If the knee is jammed but neglects to tell the leg that it’s hurting then the whole body is going to have a hard time walking. When an unspoken is requested the church finds itself in a place where they could help but have no idea how to help.
Part of the purpose of coming together to pray is that we make our requests to God together. Asking others to pray for your unspoken request takes away strength in praying. It is impossible to pray in faith while praying an unspoken prayer. If we do not know what we are asking when we pray our words are nearly meaningless.
There is one big caveat in all of this discussion. This caveat is likely the reason we have so many unspoken requests. The truth is that some prayer groups just aren’t trustworthy. We don’t want to share our greatest needs with some groups simply because we don’t truth them. This should never be the case and yet it happens all the time. Churches should be safe places full of safe people. We should be able to be transparent in church. But churches are full of sinners. There are no perfect prayer groups. With this thought in mind I think its fair to make this conclusion about unspoken requests. The unspoken request should be an emergency practice not a normal practice.
Posted by Caleb