The "Don't Pray" List
Elias Al-Karim says he’s always gotten along well with his neighbors, who are evangelical Christians. But he was angered recently to learn that they had added his name, and the names of his wife and children, to Community Faith Center’s corporate prayer list. Elias called the church to complain.You can find the full story here. So, is this pastor right or wrong?
"We do not want prayer from Christians, and we did not ask for it," he told a reporter. "It’s a violation to pray for someone without their knowledge or consent."
To ease tensions, the church did what many churches and ministries are increasingly doing: started a "do not pray" list. The list grew rapidly after Al-Karim alerted the local newspaper about his experience. Hundreds of Muslims, atheists, Mormons and even pagans called to have their names added to the list. Now when prayer requests come in to the church, names are checked against the list before they receive prayer.
"We have to respect people’s wishes," says the pastor. "If they really don’t want prayer, we honor that."
I have never felt particularly comfortable with large churchwide prayer lists. I understand the rationale and we all need to be reminded to pray for those in need. I just don't think God is ever impressed or moved by the number of our combined prayers, as if we can push God to do our bidding by the sheer volume of our prayers. It seems to me that God answers prayers that are genuine and passionate and consistent with His own character and purposes, regardless of how many are praying. "The prayers of a righteous man availeth much." Not a righteous mob.
Those who dial up the "Don't Pray" list had better change their strategy. It's not a bunch of kneeling Christians that they should be worried about. It is the restless, relentless Spirit of God, the most ruthless member of the Trinity, who will stop at nothing to win their love. It is the Hound of Heaven who pursues not to destroy but to capture by His grace. And there's no stopping Him.