I told a friend that I’d add her husband to my Prayer List. He’s been having some inconvenient and mysterious symptoms, worrisome ones that could be nothing or could need intervention. When I told her that he was going on my list she said, “Oh, you’ve got enough on your list right now.”
My friend knows that my younger sister has a new diagnosis that we all hate and fear. Of course, Sis is at the top of my Prayer List. I have even been thanking God for healing her, in advance, even though her surgery is a month away. My assumption is that God’s grace will cure her and I want God to know that I have every confidence in Him. God may be oblivious to flattery but I’m willing to risk it.
I am a pretty selfish Pray-er. I admit that all my prayers are for myself. I want my sister to get better because I can’t imagine my life without her. I want my friend’s husband to be fine so I can continue to enjoy her happiness and peace of mind. I want world peace so I can enjoy a blithe existence and would like for beheadings to be stopped so I don’t have to be fearful and appalled.
But what about Prayer Lists themselves? I begin to wonder about them. Are they finite? Can you have “enough” to pray about and for? Is there a ranking system depending on where someone appears on the list? How are the prayers distributed? Is there a quality control applied to the prayers? Can you spread your prayers too thin? Does my intention matter? Can I wear out my welcome?
It occurs to me that my Prayer Lists, like my prayers, are self-indulgent. An omniscient God already knows what‘s going on, who needs help. He doesn’t need me to tell him. His intercession for you will occur whether or not you are on my Prayer List. The benefit of prayer comes not in the answer to the prayer but in the voicing of it.
When I present my pleas to God, I place myself in his presence, a positive place for me to be. As I list my entreaties, I am benefitting from this faithful interaction. A prayer is a statement of optimism which can momentarily make fear go away. A prayer is an act of placing care in God’s hands and off my own shoulders. Prayer is relief and respite.
So I’ll continue to lengthen my Prayer List, adding names and circumstances familiar and foreign. As things are checked off, “I prayed for him and he’s fine now,” I will feel for just a second or two the power of my prayer. Then I’ll remember the rest of the deal. One more prayer. This one for the length of my Gratitude List.