I was at a little gathering the other day and at the end it was asked if anyone had any prayer requests.
One fellow quickly responded: “I have an ‘unspoken!'”
This was an unknown concept to me in the past. Years upon years of sitting in hundreds upon hundreds of Bible studies, assemblies, get-togethers and what nots — as a professional Christian, no less — and I’d never heard the term til I moved to Wilmington before the turn of the century.
The first time I heard it I actually asked, “an unspoken what?” Obviously I’ve never been afraid of stupidity, because the answer came back with something of an attitude: “a prayer request!” Of course I asked what it was (I mean, how can you pray about something when you don’t know what it is, right?)
When they pontificated that it was “private,” I had to wonder: “What is that all about? Did you like, steal all the funds out of the petty cash drawer or cut your neighbor up into little pieces and bury her in the backyard?” How can a public prayer request be “private?”
Well, now I’m in the know. And when someone says they have an “unspoken,” I no longer get that “huh?” look on my face and have even trained myself to not roll my eyes anymore (I did that once and my wife gigged me so hard in the side that I thought she’d ruptured my spleen).
But, I still think it.
Perhaps one ought to throw us potential prayees a bone — give us a hint, a clue, an idea of just what it is we’re supposed to be praying for. I mean, when my wife tells me to go to the store for her, I really, really want to know what I’m supposed to pick up. The likelihood that I’ll forget anyway after I’m there is besides the point. I can always call and ask for a memory jogger; but to go in the hopes that I’ll pick up the right thing? That’s simply not fair! I’d be in hot water before I ever left the house.
Yet I’m expected to play the role of sage and fortune-teller and “discern” the problem as well as be able to pray intelligently about it. A monkey throwing a dart at an open phonebook to choose an eating establishment that served an Ethiopian fare in Wilmington, NC would have a better chance than I at approaching God in the heavenly realm without a clue what I’m asking for on behalf of the unspoken requester. Not fair!
Maybe unspokens are a way of confessing sin without really having to confess it. Instead of saying, “I’m about to have an affair with my secretary and need help” (which could potentially be quite embarrassing), tossing out an “unspoken” is a wimpy way of kinda admitting wrong or the potential to commit wrong, but without the inherent loss of face that comes with an open admission. “Honest, your Honor, I tried to get help but it just didn’t help!”
I’ve got this real bad belief that Christians need other Christians to help them be what God wants them to be. If we have to play “mystery pray” to confuse our fellow Jesus-followers so they can kinda, sorta be of assistance to us, perhaps we ought not to be playing at all.
Perhaps we aren’t…