Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Delegating Prayer

I don’t spend much time in American churches, as you might have guessed, but today I visited one to attend a wedding. And was shocked to discover little cards that you could fill in to get the church staff to pray instead of you.

I'm sorry the image is blurry. I think I might need a new camera

On the other side of the card a space is provided for you to describe the request you want this prayer to contain.

I understand that people lead busy lives but there should still be things that we don’t delegate to others. Thinking, breathing, eating, loving, drinking, sleeping, learning, even going to the dentist are activities that nobody can do for us. Surely, prayer is one of them. How could it have occurred to anybody that you can get others to pray instead of you? What next? Pre-recorded prayers that are made at regular intervals for a low price of $19.99?

This is just mind-boggling. If somebody wanted to ridicule religious people, they couldn’t do it as well as the religious people manage to all on their own.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 

I wonder what the guy who came up with the the above-mentioned suggestions would have had to say about this practice of getting others to pray instead you.

25 thoughts on “Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Delegating Prayer”

  1. From my experience with churches (I grew up going to various churches, mostly Southern Baptist), I think this is a prayer request thing where the person filling out the card isn’t delegating prayers but asking for extra prayers.

    I also lived in the South for most of my life and it’s almost a very common to hear “I’ll be praying for you.” Or for someone to mention a friend or relative who is going through a tough spot or health issue and say “can you pray for them?” Or two people are talking and one mentions a job change/interview/possible layoff, or that their trying to get pregnant, or their oldest child is struggling with school and the other will say “I’ll be praying for you.”

    Not meaning instead of but with.

    And that’s what I think this card means. Not instead of, but with.

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    1. Know! What a profanation. The very existence of a church is incopatible with the New Testament’s teachings. People prefer not to notice that because buying grace is so easy, in their eyes. Horrible. i

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  2. Telling others to pray for “—–” is the only way some people feel comfortable sharing their problems and worries. It a way of expressing one’s anxieties without the fear of prejudice.

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  3. Catholic churches have you pay for candles, novenas and prayers (mass) for dead people, not Christian churches. A prayer request is not delegating your prayer to another person, it’s just a way of letting those people know what you need extra prayer for. Yes, I write in for extra prayer when my husband goes to Baghdad or just roams the base in Balad. It’s not that my prayers are not effective, it’s just nice to know that more than just my prayer is going up as an offering. (Not that God doesn’t already know that James is going to Baghdad and already looking over him. Prayer is incense to God, but we pray so we can seek His will and be more like Him, not to placate Him.)

    BTW, I’m trying your cabbage roll recipe tomorrow, we’re having our new Ukraine neighbors over for dinner (and they are making honey pie, which sounds really good.)

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      1. Hen I was at the hospital, the TV was on and I heard this evangelical preacher explaining to people how to get rich. A Christian preacher. How to get rich. I was floored. w

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        1. From what I have seen, there’s a whole sort of group of churches devoted to the idea that “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” and that God “wants you to be rich.”
          So much for Blessed Are the Poor?

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      2. Tithing happens in both kinds of churches, but tithing isn’t a request to pray for the dead. At a Catholic church you can pay for prayers from the priest, at a Protestant church you don’t.

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      3. I grew up Southern Baptist and I don’t agree with them and I have serious serious issues with Southern Baptist Church. However, tithing was not tied to prayer in anyway.

        In fact tithing isn’t mandatory at all and a person could not tithe and still be in good standing with the church. At least this is how it was when I was attending Southern Baptist Churches but it’s been awhile and that may have changed.

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    1. There is a Catholic custom I will have to ask my Mom about – when someone dies she pays for a Mass (at least I think money actually exchanges hands, though I don’t know how much; again, I will ask her) and during the Mass the priest mentions the deceased as in “Let us pray for X” usually mentioned with other people. Meanwhile she sends a notice about the mass tucked in to the sympathy card that she sends the bereaved family. In a way it is a comfort to them, though when you write it all out like that it sounds a bit convoluted.

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  4. I am not aware of the Southern Baptists working in this way. But some of these other “Christian” churches say that what you give, comes back tenfold and so on, give to them and you will get rich. There’s also a group running software that will pray for you or the people you want prayed for, in case you or they forget to pray or in addition to the prayers you may yourself say. You subscribe to the service and they set up voice synced software to pray for you at the right times and so on. Yes, it is for profit, although it’s not outrageously expensive.

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    1. ” But some of these other “Christian” churches say that what you give, comes back tenfold and so on, give to them and you will get rich. ”

      -Yes, that’s exactly what the preacher I heard was saying! All he was asking for was $1,000. Which god would somehow mysteriously return to you multiplied.

      “There’s also a group running software that will pray for you or the people you want prayed for, in case you or they forget to pray or in addition to the prayers you may yourself say. You subscribe to the service and they set up voice synced software to pray for you at the right times and so on. ”

      -This cannot be possible. Oh my God. Somebody wake me up right now.

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  5. My favorite Colbert quote: “”If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

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