I’m Praying For You
The words haunt me. Ever since my name showed up on the Sunday announcements as someone “struggling and in need of prayers”, the words are a shower of bitterness to me. I realized this week such feelings are valid because “praying for you to change” is not a healthy prayer and has little if anything to do with Christ. How do you know the way I should act or think or feel or change? After MJ’s articles this week about right being wrong and overcoming the “I’m sorry syndrome”, I stumbled across a rather striking contradiction: When can prayer be wrong?
Red Flag: Praying for others to change
In some online discussions with former ubf members this week, I realized that prayer is taught by ubf teachers as a tool for change. We almost always exclusively prayed for the nation to change, for sheep to change, for some other country to change, for our children to change, etc. We always said “I’m praying for you” with the sentiment of “You need to change somehow”.
So many times the prayers of ubf shepherds are about pointing out sins in their sheep. How many remember sitting through a long prayer session where people prayed about your sins and how much you need to change?
Yet when did Jesus ever call a prayer meeting to change people or the nations? Do we see any evidence that Christian prayer is to be focused on changing something in other people?
I now see this kind of prayer as a red flag of spiritual abuse. If ubfers are praying for us former members to “repent” or “come back to our senses” then it is wasted effort. In the same way, if we ex-ubfers are praying for missionaries to change or to publicly repent or for ubf to be destroyed, then it is also wasted effort. Such prayers are not of Christ, in my belief.
How should we pray?
Jesus taught about prayer several times. The most famous is of course the Lord’s Prayer. How does the prayer begin?
Prayer, as Jesus taught it, is about the glory of God, not about changing people.
Prayer is about God doing his will and bringing about his kingdom, not about changing a nation to be holy.
Prayer is about raising the awareness of our collective needs, not about reminding Bible students of their sins.
Prayer is about forgiving people, not about changing people.
Prayer is about discerning God’s leading and listening for God’s voice, not about submitting to your shepherd’s ideas and plans for your life.
So the next time you hear someone at ubf “pray for you”, remember this is a red flag of cult control. This form of spiritual abuse is something that must end. Prayer is a wonderful gift, not something to be abused as a tool of manipulation.