Many churches, back before the internet, had a Prayer List. It was a sheet of paper listing out the current crop of ill, unemployed, or general requests for prayer needed for such mundane things as homes, or cars or recent graduates.
Of course, as people healed, or obtained a job or weren’t graduating from anything, they dropped off the Prayer List for the next needee individuals.
As the proverbial entertainment industry operates, they became yesterday’s news. Today’s blockbuster movie, smashing box-office records, becomes tomorrow’s DVD, and next week’s “Special” and by next month will be in the “$1.99” bin alongside Splash.
When my deconversion initially filtered through the church network, I jumped to the head of the Prayer List. Maybe not the actual paper one (too embarrassing for my family) but the secret Prayer List known to the select few—the one the Pastors and Elders and Deacons knew about and no one else.
They prayed and they prayed and they prayed. They prayed their guts out. And over time…nothing happened. I didn’t come bounding back to Jesus. Turns out this wasn’t a “phase.” I simply stayed not-a-Christian.
Worse, I didn’t pick up any new habits to pray for. No drunken rampages. No divorce. Didn’t lose my job. Didn’t become sick. I became quite boring to pray for. How many times can one say, “God, I wish that feller was saved. Again.”?
I have been relegated to being on yesterday’s prayer list. Old news. Sure, just like the occasional odd movie IS rummaged out of the $1.99 bin, dusted off, and lovingly purchased, I suspect my name equally occasionally is dropped in a prayer every other month or so. But at this point I think the person’s God knows what the person wants. There isn’t any new way to say it.
Just like finding out someone lost their job. Initially everyone feels badly and prays quite extensively for them. As the weeks of unemployment drag out to months, it is human nature to lose the beginning exuberance. We go from “Poor Jim” to “Jim still hasn’t found a job?” Soon it is “There must be something wrong for Jim to not have work by now!”
I was just as guilty. When going through my deconversion, at first I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would help me through it—reveal himself to me. But after a while, I lost the words to say. How many times could I say, “God, I want to know you. Help my unbelief.”? If God didn’t realize it the first time, he certainly didn’t need to hear it 1,094 times more. For all the people that think we deconverts let go too soon—remember we are just as human as you. Are you as faithful praying for “Sara’s Aunt” who was diagnosed with cancer after 2 weeks? 2 months? 2 years? Of course not—we move on. We find new things to pray for.
Why would a God need to hear the same request over and over? If there was a God, and he had been watching humanity for only a few years, I think he got the point we don’t want our grandparents to die of cancer. Does this God really need reminding from Wednesday to Thursday that I don’t want grandpa to die? Does this God need a new Prayer list to smack himself on the head and say “What? Jim wants a job? Gosh, the first 16 weeks he was on that prayer list, I thought they were just kidding!!”
To some extent, I am glad I am off the Prayer list. People should be doing better things with their time than wasting breath, talking to a non-existent being doing non-existent things. On the other hand, I am a bit saddened by it. Because it makes me yesterday’s Prayer list. Old news. Forgotten.
Ah well. Such is the life cycle of a Prayer List individual.