We have a rich tradition of prayer at St. Stephen’s and have been blessed over the years with talented lay leaders who have kept that tradition alive. Our current leader is Rae Fellows, who keeps our weekly prayer list. When you make a prayer request, by emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Prayer Request” in the subject line, the request is added to the list. Often people provide more information in their request than they want generally known. So before it’s added to the list, either Rae or myself contacts the person making the request and asks if the language that’s going onto the list is acceptable. Any necessary changes are made, and then the list goes to a group of dedicated people who pray for those on the list throughout the week. On Sunday morning, the list is passed on to the intercessor, who is asked to use only first names, but otherwise read the list as it’s written.
In using this method, we are trying to both respect the privacy of those who are requesting prayers, and offer them the opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives with the community at large, since many people will want to reach out and offer help. Privacy has become a complicated subject in American life since the birth of the internet. Information can be shared incredibly easily, and can inadvertently be made public through social media and live-streaming. Comments on St. Stephen’s Facebook page are public and can be viewed by anyone throughout the world at any time. Now that our church services are online, prayer requests that are read out during the service are also very public. As we wrestled with these facts, the community of people who pray through the list during the week wanted to balance a desire to respect people’s privacy with a hope that we can engage each other with as much love and help as possible. So instead of setting a strict policy, we chose a relational path, agreeing to check with those making prayer requests about how they want their request to be conveyed in the course of a church service.
It’s wonderful that we have such dedicated people praying through the list every week. It’s also wonderful that we have other people who are ready and willing to lend a helping hand in times of need. Our hope is that our relational method of receiving requests and conveying them to the church as a whole allows both groups to respond wholeheartedly and lovingly.