We’ve all had one.
But we probably didn’t realize it was doing more harm than good.
The pastor stands at the pulpit, preparing to conclude the service.
It’s a small congregation, so the pastor invites the church to share any prayer requests.
A worried mother asks for prayer in regards to her wayward son, that he would make the prodigal journey back to the Lord.
An elder in the church, a rather heavy set man shares that his cancer has returned. It is getting out of hand and the doctors don’t know what more can be done. Prayer for healing, wisdom for the doctors and peace are all asked for.
As the pastor bows his head for prayer, another mother pipes up.
She declares that she has an unspoken prayer request.
A strange silence falls over the congregation, and the pastor tries to regain his prayer composer.
The infamous unspoken prayer request.
Almost every Christian has experienced a moment like that.
It could have been in large church rather than a small one, or a small group bible study or at a youth group retreat.
It could have been a mother or father that spoke up, an elder or a layperson in the church, a faithful church goer or a first timer.
It could have been mentioned through tearful eyes and a shaky voice, or a dead pan face and clear throat.
It could have been the person sitting beside you, or it could have been you.
Whatever the details may be, at some point there was someone asking for prayer regarding an unspoken situation or for a mysterious request.
It may have seemed innocent enough at the time. It could be totally alright to do this in your mind. But that isn’t the reality.
The reality is that unspoken request are killing the church, and it needs to stop.
What we don’t realize about these prayer requests is that they open some very destructive doors for the Enemy to attack us. And it also closes a door that God wants to leave wide open.
Unspoken prayer requests open the door to church disunity.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatian 6.2 NASB
The great thing that the worried mother did in this story was, first she looked to God for help, but secondly she looked to the body of Christ for help.
She saw that the people in her community could help her deal with the battle she was facing. The people in the seats beside her could give her relief and strength, as they help carry the burden, just as Paul instructed.
Her spoken prayer request was a cry for help and the church was there to help.
While this woman and church are entirely fictional, that response isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be. The body of Christ should help and give aid when a part of their body is hurting.
But how can the church help when it doesn’t know that one part is hurting or in need of aid? It can’t.
And when the unspoken request is mentioned, the church finds itself in a place where they could help but have no idea how to.
This situation leaves the one requesting prayer overpowered and overcome by their situation, and it leaves the church uninformed and unhelpful.
When this happens, the door to church disunity opens wide.
The church can be left with the impression that the individual is simply a consumer, wanting stuff from the church, not wanting to engage in a relationship with the church. The requester is here physically but totally unwilling to open up and expose what is happening on the inside.
If this was to happen in any other relationship, the tie would quickly be broken and the friendship dissolve.
The requester of the unspoken prayer request is also left with a bad impression. It could seem like the church does not care about them when their prayer request is glossed over or not addressed to their liking.
“The church prayed so passionately for the heavy set elder, why can’t they pray that way for me?”
Thoughts like this can and do poison the requester’s mind and soul, driving a wedge into the relationship with the church.
If the request was spoken, if the individual had dared to open up and share the nature of the prayer request, these types of things would not happen.
Disunity would be avoided and the spirit of church unity would be strengthened. If only the prayer request was spoken.
Unspoken prayer requests also open the door to gossip.
“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.” – Romans 14.13
There is no guarantee that a spoken request will not lead some people to gossip. But the mysterious nature of the unspoken prayer request gives it an edge.
The problem with an unspoken request is that it tends to poke the mind, particularly at it’s imagination and the desire to know what is happening.
What is going on in their life that they need prayer for, but don’t want to share publicly?
Are they ashamed of needing prayer?
Are they guilty of something terrible?
What did they do?
Such thoughts flood the mind and then spill into our conversations in the form of gossip.
We disguise it as concern or the spiritual need to know what exactly to pray for, but the reality is, it is gossip.
While the gossip is not the fault or sin of the unspoken prayer requester, their action or inaction has left a trap for other believers to fall into. They have helped open the door to their brethren’s sin.
That should not be. To have a church that is laden with spiritual traps is not a place of spiritual growth and healing, but of spiritual crippling and death.
This doesn’t not leave the gossips without responsibility in this situation.
There is much that could be said about the sin of gossip,but I will only say two things.
First, sin is a choice. It is a willing to do what is not the will of God. Whether that is adultery, murder, theft or gossip, it is a choice to participate in.
Should an unspoken prayer request provoke in us the desire to gossip, we need to exercise the power we have to say no to that choice.
Second, gossip is assuming out loud.
In most cases where there is gossip, the facts or details are not known. Especially in the case of an unspoken prayer request, there are a lot of unknowns.
Gossip assumes what those facts and details are and shares them. Whether it is maliciously or not, whether there is any truth or not, it is shared.
A wise man once said that assuming makes you and me look like a bunch of idiots. His words were a little more colorful, but you understand what he was getting at.
Gossiping, assuming what an unspoken prayer request is about makes everyone look like an idiot.
This too leads to more destruction and death in the church as gossip pits the assumers and gossips against the subjects of the gossip. It divides the church, destroying what the body should be.
To choose to gossip, to choose to lay a trap for the church only leads to destruction.
To choose to gossip, to assume what may not be true only leads to death.
All because someone did not want to share their prayer request, all because of an unspoken prayer request.
These are two doors that unspoken prayer requests open, two doors that lead to destruction, two doors that the Enemy can use to see the death of the church.
But there is a door that gets closed when we decide to go with an unspoken prayer request.
Unspoken prayer requests close the door to answered prayers and the blessings from God.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7.7
All children are taught to ask for something from their parents. If they want more apple juice, they have to ask. If they want more supper, they have to ask. If they want that toy on the shelf, they have to ask.
Jesus taught his disciples that if there was anything that they needed, they were to go to God and ask. If there was something that they didn’t have that they wanted, they needed to seek God out and He would bless them with it. If there was a desire in their heart, something that God could fulfill, they should knock and the door of heaven would be opened and the answer found.
But all that asking, seeking and knocking requires a level of action. In two of the three cases, it requires that we open our mouths and speak.
It demands that we say something, that we speak our request. An unspoken request will not work.
That may sound ridiculous. It may sound like I believe that God doesn’t know what you need, or what is closest to your heart.
That is not what I am saying at all. God is not limited by our prayers not being spoken. Not in power or ability to know what we need.
However, Jesus says to ask.
What parent, when their child wants more juice but will not ask, knows that juice is what the child wants?
The child needs to let the parent know what is wanted, regardless of how knowledgeable or powerful the parent is.
How many times have you heard or said yourself, “If you want something, you have to ask.”
Why would it be any different with God? For we are His children, and He our Father. We should ask, with words aloud, not unspoken requests.
If we do not ask, how will we receive? If we do not seek, how will we find? If we do not knock, how will the door be opened?
It won’t. It will be a door closed because we didn’t want to speak aloud what we needed.
So a door that God wants to have opened remains shut, because prayers went unspoken.
Three doors, two opened and one closed, all bringing death and destruction to the church.
It is hard to believe that all that could come about because of unspoken prayer requests: disunity, gossip and a lack of answers and blessings.
But it can, and I believe that it often does without anyone realizing it.