“I have an unspoken prayer request.”
Then why did you just speak it?
The “unspoken” prayer request (pause and meditate on that phrase for a few minutes) has bothered me for years. If I have such a sensitive, secretive topic, then I can pray for it without the announcement that I have one. If I do not think I should share it with a group of people, then I shouldn’t. However, if it is a request that is burdensome enough to share with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, then I need to say what it is. I don’t have to share all the details to ask for prayer. I can ask my small group (Sunday School class, Life Group, Connection Group, Whatever-Clever-Name-You-Want Group) to pray about a big decision that I have to make. This is not the “unspoken” I am referring to. I am talking about those generic “I have an unspoken” comments. What is their purpose?
I liken this to a child who is supposed to keep a secret. A true secret-keeper will not give others the indication that he or she has knowledge of the secret. But as all parents have experienced, the first time you tell your child a secret, he has to advertise that he knows something that others do not know. This advertisement, this announcement of the secret knowledge, is too revealing. In essence, it is no longer a complete secret once people know that there is one being kept.
So why ask for prayer for an unspoken reason (that’s actually not unspoken)?
Could it be pride?
“This is so important, this information I am privy to, that I can’t share it with anyone.”
“This very personal issue is so private, that I can’t tell you about it.”
“But that doesn’t mean you can’t ‘pray’ about this thing you don’t know about. Because God knows.”
It’s true that God knows. It’s also true that none of the rest of us have to know about it. If it is wise to not share about the request, then don’t. Sometimes, I think it’s good to just be quiet.
Is it really God-honoring to share an unspoken request?
Request sharing should be a time of honesty, authenticity, and brokenness between like-minded, sinning disciples of Christ. Perhaps the sinning saints are hurting because we are sojourners and living in a hostile world brings trouble. (“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus warned.) Perhaps the purpose is based in praise, and we see a piece of home here on earth because loving God and loving others will bring blessing. Perhaps we share to adore the One who is redeeming us for a greater purpose. I don’t think an unspoken prayer request accomplishes any of these.
Do we see any examples in the Bible of the unspoken request?
Prayers in the Bible are specific: prayers that the gospel would be shared boldly, for protection and safety and holiness, of thankfulness. However, even the prayers recorded in the Bible do not share all the minutia of every request. We are even instructed to avoid wordiness and repetition (Matthew 6:7). Imagine Paul (or Peter or James or John, etc.) writing, “Dear Brothers and Sisters, I have an unspoken.” It seems strange.
These are only three reasons why I see no benefit in sharing an unspoken prayer request: they are often rooted in pride; they do not serve a God-honoring purpose; and there is no biblical precedent.
What do you think? Am I missing something?