Questions about Sharing Time
From time to time I have had questions about the appropriateness of sharing time for a Sunday morning worship time. Arthur Paul Boers writes an excellent piece in The Mennonite this week in which he raises many of my questions and concerns. I especially resonate with the point he makes about the content of our sharing:
The number one prayer request is for medical ailments, usually someone beyond the congregation and often explained in needlessly graphic and explicit detail. Why do we mostly pray for health problems? And why so many requests about people that much of the congregation does not even know?
I do see that even if we share about the health problems or situations about people that most of the congregation doesn't know, the person sharing knows them and feels directly impacted by the situation being prayed for. So in this sense we are also caring for the person sharing the prayer concern by upholding the person that they have brought to our attention.
Anyway, I really recommend the article. I think it offers some helpful observations at how we should be discerning in what is shared in the context of public worship. One of the ways we have sought to broaden the focus of our prayers that follow sharing time is by using a grid that guides the leader who is voicing a prayer after sharing time for the Church and the World. Some of the focus areas under which we offer more specific prayers include: Governments and leaders locally, nationally and globally, the Church in various areas of the world and the countries in that area, those whom we support in mission, local churches, Lancaster district churches and Lancaster Mennonite Conference, various other ministries such as Arbor Place and Friendship Community, specific ministries and leaders within our congregation, Life Groups, specific age groups in our congregation, and then specific requests that have been expressed. This rule of corporate prayer is to help keep us from getting to inward or narrow in the focus of our congregational prayer. This time of prayer is also very much guided by various Scriptural injunctions that call us to offer prayers for various things.