Oh, those infamous prayer requests!
“We need to pray for Olivia and Liam. I heard that they might be getting a divorce!”
“I’m calling to ask for prayer for the church board. Something big is happening tonight. The chairman might resign!”
How do we keep gossip out of our prayer ministries? This is the most frequently asked question people ask me since I began teaching on resisting gossip.
It’s complicated. We want to encourage intercessory prayer, so we create phone chains and email prayer lists, and we solicit requests from people at small group meetings. However, prayer requests come from sinners, are about sinners and are passed on to other sinners, so there are plenty of opportunities for sinful gossip to enter into the process (Proverbs 10:19).
Here is a mental checklist I developed for managing prayer requests in a careful, godly manner. Before you pass on a request, make sure to: check your facts, check your role, check your audience, and check your heart.
Check Your Facts
Prayer requests can get muddled very fast. If the situation is not something potentially shameful, getting the facts wrong may not be a big deal. If it gets reported that “Cheryl is having her tonsils out,” when Cheryl is really going to have her wisdom teeth removed, it’s embarrassing to the one with the incorrect facts, but not embarrassing to Cheryl. But if we report that “Cheryl got cut from the softball team” or “Cheryl lost her job” or “Cheryl broke up with Jeremy,” and it’s not true, then it could be very damaging.
So, check your facts. Is this info straight from the person it’s about? Don’t transmit hearsay or rumor. Make sure what you are passing on is true.
And remember–don’t say more than you have to. You don’t have to share all of the juicy details. God knows all about it.
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Matthew C. Mitchell