Thinking Out Loud

July 16, 2016

Intercessors for Hire

Filed under: Christianity, prayer — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:08 am
Need prayer? Just give us your credit card information and we'll be happy to do that.*

Need prayer? Just give us your credit card information and we’ll be happy to do that.*

It all started 7 years ago when a guy named Joel wrote and asked if I would promote his now defunct website on my blog. These requests increased as the readership grew, as well as people wanting me to promote books.

I took one look at prayer-helpers.com and frankly I was appalled at the idea of people setting up a commercial enterprise to “prey” on those who wanted someone to pray for them. Without questioning the authenticity of whether any prayer would ever actually happen, I was concerned that this site would simply exploit people who were disconnected from a local church, or from friends or family who would pray for them.

“Generally,” my wife said, “You pray for people you are in relationship with.” I agree with that sentiment; though I have done several shifts at a prayer counseling center. But we didn’t charge people. The “pray-ers” didn’t get paid, either. Probably 90% of the people I’ve prayed for have been people who I knew more than superficially.

First, here is part of Joel’s letter to me:

…I was hoping that you might be willing to consider reviewing my new Christian website, prayer-helpers.com on your site. I think the concept of pay-for-prayer may be controversial and interesting for your audience. My goal is to bring easily accessible prayer partners to people who may not have them available. I would happily answer any interview questions you might have.

Interesting, yes. Controversial, definitely. Deeply disturbing, incredibly. Maybe somewhat guilty-by-association. I wrote back:

Yes it is controversial.
Too controversial.
This is why people need to belong to a local church.

That left Joel wanting more. He replied:

Why do you say it is too controversial? Also, some people are either too far from a local church (alaskans, etc) or for some reason are physically disabled and unable to go so the online community needs to be there for them.

I’m sure Sarah Palin would get a chuckle out of the (small ‘a’) Alaskan stereotype. This is the closest I came to thinking I was being “had” in this entire exchange, except the website was real. I wrote back:

“Freely you have received, now freely give.”

The example of Jesus driving out the profiteers from the temple is sufficient evidence for me that we can’t exploit a person’s spiritual quest for the sake of deriving income. (Trust me, being in the Christian bookstore business, I’ve spent countless hours working through that whole situation.) I know that pastors are paid, and spend some of their time in prayer, but the idea of taking a need for prayer and the clicking “add to cart” is crossing a line, I think. And it’s reminiscent of the Catholic church asking people to pay for indulgences before the Reformation. Or televangelists asking people to send in their prayer requests on a special form, and then there is suspicion as to whether any prayer was offered or if the forms just went out to the dumpster, where the network TV crews found them.

Plus, we’re supposed to pray with as much as possible, not just pray for.

I just don’t see the convergence of internet technology and prayer being best applied here.

Joel ended our dialog with:

Thank you for your response. I respectfully must disagree with you. I see no difference between your christian bookstore and the prayer-helpers.com website.

And for me, that response clinched it. I wrestle on a daily basis with what I do vocationally and the things done by the Christian bookstore industry in general. Some of the marketing, the branding, the excesses, etc. are downright shameful. At the end of the day though, people are taking home a resource, be it a CD, DVD, Book or something they place on a table or on the wall to remind them of their Christian identity.

Prayer is somewhat of an intangible in that sense. Furthermore, when I pray for people in the bookstore, I never charge extra.

Joel saw no difference.

Also, we need to remind ourselves that while the local church solicits donations, they are never for a specific service offered to a specific person, but one is contributing to the overall work of the pastoral staff. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul saying, “Okay, I’ll lay hands on you and pray, but that will be 20 shekels.”

The church should never operate on a fee-for-service basis, and if you see that happening, you need to find another church.


*No, Thinking Out Loud does not accept credit cards for prayers.

March 17, 2010

Links for St. Patrick’s Day and Other Things

St. Patrick

Here we are once again at Wednesday, and to those of you of Irish descent, “May the road rise to meet you…”   (They already know the rest…)

  • Donald Miller’s sermon at Willow Creek on the March 6/7 weekend was perhaps his “usual” about the power of story, but it seemed especially more focused at Willow, which made it this week’s lead link.    How are you doing with the story God’s given you to write?   To view you need to select the video from the menu when you link to the sermons on their media player.  (Good one to copy the audio to disc and loan or give to your friends.)
  • This week my internet wanderings led me to further consider the rarely-heard phrase, “Assurance of Salvation;” and I was especially satisfied with an explanation posted at Catholic.com as well as an illustration that appears in the second paragraph of an article at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry or CARM.   Do you ever doubt your salvation?
  • Christian book reviews:  Helpful or hurtful?   Mark Tronson explores the topic; “They do not simply judge good writing, they are good writing, and they reflect on their subject as they do…”  with the caution that, “The reader wants to be reassured that the reviewer has a proper grasp of the subject at question, because misunderstanding theology can be a pitfall…” in this article at Christianity Today Australia
  • This YouTube clip is dated April, 2009, but STL Distributors in the U.S. has the book by British humorist Adrian Plass, Looking Good, Being Bad: The Subtle Art of Churchmanship (Authentic UK) listed as June, 2010 release.   As a huge Plass fan, I don’t know how I missed this previously, but Plass’ wit is very dry, very British, and you might have to watch this twice.
  • Did Herod want John the Baptist Put To Death?  Matthew 14 seems to say ‘yes,’ while Mark 6 seems to say ‘no.’   Join the conversation — if you’re up for it — at The BEAttitude. (Caveat:  This one is not exactly a Christian blog.   Not even close.)
  • Usually our posts from David Hayward at Naked Pastor are cartoons, but this time around, he compares trying to get people to come to church to trying to catch squirrels in his house: “…If there is any sense of a trap, they won’t even come close. They can smell control and manipulation from a mile away. Even if the control is minor and sincere, they won’t take it. Not even a nibble.”  So true.  Before clicking around the rest of his site, finish this one here.
  • In what appears to be the very first post of a new blog, James Rutz, author of Megashift announces the ushering in of The New Christianity.  Besides being a trend-watcher, Rutz might teach you a new word, “Diptisms.”
  • Canadian blogger Tim Challies flashes back to 2006 when AOL made individual online search histories public.   If nothing else, be sure to read the second list of searches with Tim’s concluding analysis in this article at Christianity Today.
  • Speaking of flashbacks, here’s a 2009 post from Kevin Jackson at the Society of Evangelical Arminians blog which gets in the SCL spirit with Stuff Young Calvinists Like (complete with Arminian equivalents!)
  • Here’s a very short piece by blogger Jayarathina Madharasan that you can copy and paste and forward to your friends:  Cell Phone vs Bible.
  • Canada’s outspoken Christian talk show host, Drew Marshall launches his own YouTube picks on Drew Tube.  (Check out the rather amazing collection of interviews from the radio show itself here.)
  • Could political correctness ever lead us from St. Patrick’s Day to “Irish Day?”  Here’s an internal link from two years ago on this blog.
  • Here’s the real deal on St. Patrick from Wikipedia.  “…Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of ‘three divine persons in the one God'”
  • Our cartoons this week are straight off the comic pages of your local newspaper; from For Heaven’s Sake and Wizard of Id.


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