I do believe in the power of prayer...I also believe that prayer is two way and that as well as sending we should also be on receive. Hearing the voice of God for me can mostly only be done in quietness. I value my silent times enormously.
Its also true that where two or three are gathered in the name of Christ there He is in the midst of them. So several people praying at the same time for the same thing can be a power house of good.
I acknowledge all of that...so why do I have such a problem with prayer circles?
It goes back to my days as a worship leader I think...My vicar asked me to chair a midweek group who met once a week to pray together. I was delighted. It was something dear to my heart.
The problem was it was an established group and they had already decided on the best way to do it so after the opening prayer they sat and gave updates on the subject of previous prayers and then went on to add others that had cropped up during the week.
The period of discussion was at least half an hour...sometimes longer and after two or three weeks I realised that for many of them it was the highlight and the purpose of their attendance.
It had at some stage turned into a gossip shop.
Ooo she didn't did she?
Well I never...terrible situation.
Well they have to do something about that.
I always knew it wouldn't last
That man needs help.
The conversation flowed along well trodden lines every week.
They did pray but it was almost an after thought. I explained all this to the vicar who I suspect already knew most of it.
I am ashamed to say I didn't stay long with them....I found it too negative.
For me it had degenerated into a gossip shop and a way of finding out what was happening in the village.
I have similar problems with prayer cards. A colleague of mine sends out cards to all the churches every month. On them are the names and details of people who need our prayer. Twice I have found the names of people who have specifically asked me not to announce their names in church.
Once you have prayed publicly for someone you have announced that they are in trouble . I think you are duty bound to respect peoples need for anonymity if thats what they ask. .
We are trusted with all sorts of details of health upsets, marital problems, brushes with the law. This is a sacred trust between them and us and has to be respected at all times I think.
I will continue to pray but more often than not the names of the people involved will be between me and God.