A pastor friend of mine once ranted about the prayer requests that are asked for in church life. He wanted so much to pray for his congregation and felt a great need to pray for them and their needs, but just couldn't bring himself to pray for "my cousin's daughter-in-law's nephew's hairdresser's cat." That wasn't a specific prayer request, but you get the idea.
At first I thought it was an insensitive thing for a pastor to say. And then there was Facebook...
Prayer request after prayer request. All of them important, all of them worthy of prayer. Even "the hairdresser's cat" is important because we're not just praying for the cat, but for the person who feels a great sense of worry over his/her most trusted and loyal companion. (I know-it's a cat. But there are a few.) But doggoneit, it's overwhelming!
In one day I may receive as many as 7 requests for prayers or "positive vibes." (I pray. I think prayer is more powerful than my positive vibes, especially when I'm not feeling positive.) That doesn't count my family, prayer requests from church, friends who I know need prayer, or my own personal requests.
What about those in my immediate circle who are in pain? What about my friends who are struggling hard with pain I could never imagine, like the death of a child? What about my friends whose life is falling apart, bit by bit? What about my friends who are lonely or childless or jobless? What about MY hairdressers cat?
A friend of mine once commented about how she uses Facebook. She refrains from adding friends just because she knows them or had some connection with them in the past. She doesn't want the people she cares about most to get lost in the shuffle. She wants to be connected with people she has a strong connection with.
Exactly! As I am re-shuffling and re-thinking how I want to use Facebook, I am giving myself permission to only pray for those I am closely connected to. (With some exceptions, of course--things like our soldiers overseas, the Newtown tragedy, or the Boston Marathon victims.) God has given me a flood of people throughout my life who have blessed me, changed me, or challenged me. I am blessed with friends, family, and friends who are like family. They need prayer. I need prayer. It's an honor for me to pray for them and for them to pray for me.
And, like my friend's reasons for protecting her Facebook account, the numerous prayer requests cause those closest to me to get less "air time." They get a brief prayer, just like the rest of them. Because that's what I have the energy for.
When I do really get humble before God and beg Him for the grace to heal or comfort someone in my closer circle of connections and spend a tremendous amount of emotional energy on their need, I find that I just don't have the same passion for a stranger's cat.
Is praying for others important? Oh, yeah! Is praying the right thing to do? Of course! But I see now that I don't have to pray for the whole world. God gave me beautiful people I can invest my energy into. He gave me particularly annoying "neighbors" * that He commanded me to pray for. HE put these people in my life right now for "such a time as this."** The others have someone God has gifted them to, as well. They will be prayed for by someone who will take the time to beg for their healing or their comfort. They will pray with more passion and compassion. God has not made me responsible for everyone.
Not even your cousin's daughter-in-law's, nephew's hairdresser's cat. Just your cat.
(For my friends who may not understand some of my references, I wanted to make sure you understood where I was coming from, should you desire to do so.
(Matthew 5:44 Bible
* But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you
(Esther 4:14b Bible
* * ...and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?)