One of the intriguing things about my preaching experience in Andhra Pradesh was the desire that the people would have that you pray for them. What I mean is that after services they would come up to me and ask for prayer. The expectancy, if I fully gathered what was going on, was that they wanted you to pray there and then.
Here are some thoughts:
- In many ways this is beautiful and something to celebrate in the life of the church. How wonderful to be in a church where the people want to pray, where they realise the need to turn over issues in their lives to God in prayer.
- I did feel though that it would be better for them to be praying with one another rather than asking me to pray for them.
- One concern was the whole phenomenon of viewing me as “the priest” or “the man of God” (a term which was often used) because I had preached. any sense that I had some special access into the presence of God is one I would want to reject with my whole heart.
- Also, I wondered whether there might be some residual colonial attitudes here. After all, I was the white man who would have to be deferred to. Again, this would be an attitude that I would want to squash with all my being.
- Out of courtesy, wanting to encourage spiritual attitudes and wanting to bond with these great people I did very happily participate. Often it would be a general prayer (to just pray for them) or prayer for some practical need (such as health or education). But, my heart delighted when I heard them ask for prayer for their family to be saved or some similar spiritual desire.
I did feel at times like I was a purveyor of prayers and all trades of that ilk. However, what I privilege it was to pray for and be with these people, whom I came to love. And may it be that the Lord might yet move through those prayers.