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#102 Gossip via prayer request

posted by Stephanie Drury

In a Bible study or fellowship group there comes a time (usually near the end) that you go around the circle and make prayer requests. This is an excellent time to air the dirt on absent friends under the guise of being lovingly concerned about their spiritual state.

The person being skewered is never present when others are confessing their sins for them. The prayer request often includes the phrase “they are just not walking with the Lord right now” and the group nods gravely while imagining which wayward deeds this person has been engaging in.

Other times more detail is given. “I just want to remind you to be in prayer for Heather and Scott. She found out he’s been sleeping with her best friend so they need lots of prayer right now. And this has to be especially hard on them considering they just got through that whole lesbian daughter thing a few months ago.”

94% of prayer requests concerning single people are for “purity” with their boyfriend or girlfriend. In a titilliating twist, some people personally confess such misdeeds in detail. This information is absorbed readily by all present and filed away in everyone’s memories to “struggle with” later.

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Ryan Jones

posted November 18, 2009 at 12:32 pm

It’s true.
My family used to pray for a member of our congregation who tried to commit suicide. I remember wanting to have family prayer each night because I’d get to hear the next chapter in the saga: “Dear Heavenly Father, please shine down on Russ tonight as he’s going through his struggles and pray for his wife who has chosen to leave him. Amen.”

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posted November 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm

mmm, I was outted at a prayer meeting, in my absence of course.

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posted November 18, 2009 at 1:48 pm

You know, I hadn’t even thought about this until now, but what did people “pray” about me when I started dating and eventually marrying an athiest (including premaritals) and my dad had an affair, my parents divorced, my mom married another guy 4 months later but he was living with her probably a month before they got married. I used to be a major leader for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, my dad was a deacon, and my mom taught sunday school for like ever and they were both kicked out of the church.
Geeze I bet I was the main event during prayer time.

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posted November 18, 2009 at 2:16 pm

What about “hey, I need to confess thAt I’ve been having impure thoughts about you. I’m sorry (unless you’re into it, in which case IT’S ON!!!)”

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posted November 18, 2009 at 2:44 pm

That actually happens, and they also will tell you to dress more modestly or whatever to help them in their struggling.

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posted November 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm

This is brilliant. And I can’t believe Alex was outed in a prayer meeting. That’s so horrible…

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posted November 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Funny. My pastor at Elevation Church made that comment as well. When he mentioned Christian gossip he stated “aka: prayer request.” I had never thought about it before, but that seems to be par at most churches here in the Bible belt, but not all.

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posted November 18, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I’ve always thought the prayer chains (were prayer requests are communicated through phone calls) were really gossip chains. I’ve often heard and said, God knows the situation.

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posted November 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I’ve heard so many dirty little secrets followed by “I’m only telling you this because I know you’ll pray.” It conveniently allows them to revel in the thrill of sharing juicy gossip, while covering their own ass for blatantly sinning.
One of the last tid bits I was told in my churchy days, was about these senior high girls who were “struggling” with dykin’ out. “I know you’ll pray” was attached, of course. I said, “Nah. I won’t pray. I don’t pray nearly as much as people think I do.” Shortly after, they started fervently “praying” on my behalf. From what I’ve heard about myself from my friends who still talk to people I don’t talk to anymore, some are still praying. And I left years ago! None of these prayer warriors have called me. God bless ‘em. Those fiery tongues burn the potential for loving relationships, more than any vice they fear.

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posted November 18, 2009 at 9:20 pm

YAY Stephanie – congrats on the move to beliefnet!
Prayer requests in a youth group setting should just be called “tattling.”
I was outed to an entire church through their online forum (for members-only, but at the time the church had at least a couple thousand members) all under the guise of “she needs prayer right now.”
After an old friend reached out to me during a series of deaths, etc. in the family, I wrote back to her sharing that these events had really shaken my world. In the lengthy email, I shared *details* of what was going on with our family, how we were all “dealing” and I also said I was struggling with my faith. I just couldn’t make sense of it all.
Less than a week later, with NO RESPONSE from her, I was alerted to a post on the church’s forum. It was the ENTIRE EMAIL I’d written to her. (and I haven’t heard from that girl since.)

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posted November 18, 2009 at 11:27 pm

…as she writes this blog. It seems that she must be strugglin’ with her faith right now as she belittles the power of prayer :-)

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posted November 18, 2009 at 11:31 pm

you can be prayin’ for Stephy as she must be srugglin’ with her faith right now (belittling the power of prayer) :-)

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posted November 19, 2009 at 12:33 am

Congratulations on moving to Beliefnet.
I love this topic. Thanks for “sharing” it.

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posted November 19, 2009 at 9:30 am

Greta, that is unbelievable. I think I would be ready to interupt the preacher one Sunday and walk up on stage and tell the entire church what was going on in your life. Then I would tell everyone that if they didn’t already know what was going on then they must not be a part of the prayer chain. Then I would call out the person who betrayed you. Then I would look around and say “you guys are unbelievable” and walk out. Not really sure if I would do all that, but it sounds good. What happened to you was just wrong. Got to be careful who we trust, some people will come to you with the guise that they are just trying help and then once they get something juicy they get so excited and cant wait to share with others like they just discovered the cure for Aids. Does that girl even know that you know she posted your email on the web?

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posted November 19, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Whenever my mom gets a certain expression on her face (deeply affected concern, like a stage actor, with a strange glint in the eyes) and starts a conversation with “Could you pray for…?” I cringe.
And wow, the outing-under-guise-of-prayer-concern horror seems to be extremely widespread. Apparently divorce is okay, though (although marital collapses hold a central place in prayer chains, of course — it’s just that fewer of the eager listeners will commence to pray for the divorcees’ souls; they just want the next chapter of the soap).
And yet, when a member of my parents’ small group lost his job, plunging his family into extreme financial stress, and I asked my mother after church one day (I no longer attend their church) if the family was okay, because I like them, she said that she didn’t know, because it seemed like an inappopriate time to ask them. In church.

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posted November 19, 2009 at 1:13 pm

This is so true. It’s incredibly awkward knowing people are praying for you when it’s something you never wanted to be made public. Corporate prayer has its place, but not for private things. I always thought it was awkward when people told someone’s secrets to me and then said. “I’m only telling you this so you can pray for them.” And, if you try to be discrete and say you have an unspoken prayer request some person will come up to you after the group prayer and ask how they can pray for you. They basically just want the skinny on the unspoken so they can specifically pray for it much better than just praying for the unspoken. Sure, you just want to know the gossip. I really think if the church called gossip something like “ear sex” then they would treat it differently, you know since it’s sex. Sex sins are bigger sins than just plain old gossip.

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posted November 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm

“ear sex” – YIKES! I bet Driscoll could start a whole ‘nother ten years of sermons based on that. lol.
Billy, I was living in a different state at the time and the girl I’d known since Junior High (but the email happened in my mid-twenties) so I didn’t think I had a reason to distrust her. I have no idea if she knows I knew what she did, but it never really mattered to me.

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posted November 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm

ACK! Driscoll cannot take the “ear sex” idea. It’s copyrighted! “You cannot have premarital ear sex…”

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posted November 19, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Greta, I kind of want you to tell her you know so you can come back here and we can gossip about her. It seems so appropriate! And I totally indulge in gossip about gossips. It’s my favorite kind. Is that wrong? Cuz I feel like they’re asking for it.

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posted November 19, 2009 at 9:56 pm

This is terrifyingly true. I dropped out of two churches in an impromptu manner and each time people I hadn’t been talking to knew a ridiculous amount of stuff about my personal life. I ended up disappearing from the last church and never talking to most of them again after I found out they were gossiping…oh, wait, “praying”. I figured it would be way more fun for them to make up stories purely from fiction than to have to mess with the truth!

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posted November 20, 2009 at 6:25 am

Maybe…ear porn?

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posted November 20, 2009 at 8:15 am

Do any of these folks say “Bless his/her heart” when they pass along these, um, “prayer requests”?

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posted November 20, 2009 at 9:30 am

I found this on BuzzFeed this morning. Christian Side Hugs.
Also, I tried to leave a comment about this happening to me, by way of my stepfather and his prayer group. I had trouble deciphering the verification text, and so must hurry.
Best regards!

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stephanie drury

posted November 20, 2009 at 10:57 am

Steve, “bless your heart” is strictly said below the Mason-Dixon line, or by its defectors, so only southerners tack this onto gossip to make it sound wholesome. The Yanks can only do it under the heading of “prayer request.” :)

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posted November 21, 2009 at 6:50 am

So, this Doug person seems to have totally missed the point. Unless he’s just being sarcastic. Nothing in the blog posting was belittling the power of prayer. It’s just calling out typical Pharisaical gossiping disguised as true concern. It’s fine to ask for prayer for someone who needs it, but it’s unacceptable to share private details of someone else’s life with a group, especially without that persons permission.

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Mark R

posted November 22, 2009 at 5:49 am

wish you would go back to your old site … tooo much, way tooo much crap around here for me!!! But then I am the 1000th vistor I think and I get to save 20% on visitors cards and I get to see what’s on CNN.

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posted November 25, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I tried my hardest (I even used a smiley) :-) to be very clear that I was being sarcastic. This idea was indirectly inspired by my mom. You can be prayin’ for her.

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zenitsa tsoneva

posted November 26, 2009 at 12:14 pm

please,pray for an world christian movement ‘ let’s emptu the orphanages’

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posted April 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm

please pray for owen and dee to get back together as a family and have a good life together. and to be in love always

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posted January 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm

….. I’ve done this before. I was the only person not saying anything ….. soooo I ratted out something about someone I shouldn’t have.
This post was convicting.

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Pingback: #150 The unspoken prayer request - Stuff Christian Culture Likes


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