I recently read something from a pastor stating that he was no longer going to make what he called "weak prayers" that people would seek from him. For example, he wasn't going to pray for guidance for doctors and strength for families, saying doctors are trained and families have strength when they rely on Jesus. He would pray for healing and for God's miraculous touch to change the outcome, but not to guide the outcome.
Hmm, I thought at first. That hardly seems pastoral. And then I thought some more and thought that I understand, I think, at least a little of what he might have been getting at, but that perhaps there is more going on than the prayer request suggests.
I get requests related to health care often, and so I pray for healing often. I pray for healing for things that could seem to be relatively minor, and I pray for healing for situations that are extremely difficult.
I pray not only for healing but also for doctors, nurses and other care providers. Even if I had never worked in health-care I would know that those highly trained, highly skilled professionals have bad days. They make mistakes. They come to work with personal problems that can affect their job. I recently prayed with someone who told me that her surgeon had changed the date of her surgery because he didn’t think he'd be at his best operating after a full day of travel.
And as to the pastor's other objection, i.e. that people will find strength when they rely on Jesus, I fully agree. But something I've come to learn over the past year is there is quite a lot of anxiety floating through the people I serve among. And it isn’t just among the occasional visitor to my back door whose anxiety is exacerbated by being intoxicated. It is present in people who I know to be life-long Christians. People who have shared with me powerful stories of their lives and the situations God has carried them through.
To the best of my ability I try to preach "Christ and him crucified" each Sunday morning. Each week, in some way, I try to point the sermon in some way to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the one thing that He did to bring salvation to all who love and have faith in Him.
As a pastor I have learned that even though some people have that faith in Christ deep in their bones they still have moments of uncertainty and anxiety as they live day-by-day. So instead of sending them away, perhaps with a reminder to "rely on Jesus" I pray with them. You see, when I take a moment and lift a prayer with them to God, it is not only their faith that is being strengthened, but mine as well.
While I wrote this from my perspective as pastor, the ability to join with a sister or brother in Christ is one that is open to any Christian. I understand well the anxiety that may arise in yourself when that opportunity comes before you. I felt it many times between the time of my own conversion and my becoming a pastor. But don't let that stop you. Like jumping into a swimming pool on a hot day, joining in prayer with another person is something that will always be the right decision. It will bring calm to their anxiety and strengthen both of you as followers of Jesus.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.