Let’s just get this out of the way. Prayer chains are evil. Hear me out.
God doesn’t only listen to the popular kids. Seems straightforward enough. God loves everybody, right? Sometimes when we borrow from other denominations we behave as if that’s not true.
We’ve all heard it, sometimes so often that it’s become ingrained in how we think we have to deal with God. “Trust in the power of prayer. Prayer really works.” And if your prayer really works, and my prayer really has power, then if we both pray, it’s twice as likely to work, right? That’s some really shady math, but it gave birth to something protestants call “prayer chains”. Now we solicit prayers from strangers and call ourselves prayer warriors.
We’re putting our trust in the wrong thing. We’re not called as Christians to trust in prayer. We’re called to trust in God. Our hope isn’t that we can cajole (or annoy) God into helping us if we can show him enough people actually care. Our hope is what we proclaim every time we pray as our Lord taught us. Our Father who art in heaven – What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
We don’t trust in prayer. We trust in a God who loves us enough to want to help us.
We aren’t prayer warriors. We’re not squaring off against God to force His hand. We’re not squaring off against evil either. Evil was defeated by our God who sent His Son to die upon a cross, destroying the power of sin, death, and the devil forever. The strife is over. The battle’s done. We’re children of God. We’re baptized. We pray because children need their Father.
He answers. God doesn’t deal with us according to what we’ve earned, or how many of us sign our name to the cause. It doesn’t matter how many people pray. He loves you enough to answer just you. He says so Himself.
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7-10).”
You are the lost coin, valuable enough that God would take flesh and leave the heavens just to come find you, even at the cost of His own life upon a cross. He has redeemed you, baptized you, named you His, and heaven rejoices. There is more rejoicing in heaven over one single sinner who cries out to God for help than over ninety-nine righteous people trusting in their own ability to change God’s will.
The reason prayer chains are evil is because they encourage us to trust in us, not God. If you get enough people to pray for you, God will listen better. God doesn’t sit in the heavens watching you suffer and say to Himself “Look, I’d help, but you only have like 10 people praying for you. I only help the people who can get at least 1000 people praying for them. I only work for the popular kids.” Prayer chains leave us to wonder, if God doesn’t answer our prayer the way we want Him to, if it’s not somehow our fault. Your prayer wasn’t enough. You didn’t impress Him enough, there weren’t enough people on the chain, so He didn’t help.
That’s not true. That’s evil. God heard you. He listened. He worked for you good, even when He didn’t do what you asked for, He did what was best for you.
That being said, Christians absolutely pray for each other. As Paul says, If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). When one of us hurts, we seek help for them, not because we trust our ability to help them, but because we trust that our God loves. When you find someone hurting, pray for them. You don’t need to seek out people to pray for. God will put plenty in front of you in your every day vocations. He will tie you to them as the body of Christ, the church. The saints pray for each other before the altar of God, covered in the blood of the lamb that takes away the sin of the world. That lamb who bled and died for you tore down the curtain. God hears you, no matter how many or how few are praying. He answers. He loves you enough to die on the cross to pull you back from the jaws of death and hell. He won’t forget you.
Be at peace. Relax.