Our Wednesday night schedule is pretty typical for a Baptist church. About 25-30 of us eat together at 5:45 PM, then prayer and Bible study takes place around the tables at 6:30 PM. Choir follows prayer meeting, which is the schedule in about every Baptist church I can remember. So, nothing unusual there.
Four years ago, when I first arrived, I noticed during prayer meeting that all the prayer requests were for sick people. The list of sick people wasn’t just confined to our church either. Requests included neighbors, relatives of neighbors, friends, and folks who have moved away from Chatham. Frankly, I thought we should pray for other things, too. I tried to steer the requests to other topics. I even organized our prayer requests into Church, Community, and World requests. That worked for about one week, then we were back to praying for sick people.
Four years later, I finally get it. It’s not that our folks don’t pray for other concerns in our church, community, and world. But, Wednesdays nights are a very informal fellowship time. Prayer request time is an extension of that fellowship. Last Wednesday night as I listened to the requests — all for sick people — I realized that these weren’t just prayer requests. This is the way we keep up with each other in a small town. Our concerns for others aren’t confined to our own membership either. We are concerned for friends, neighbors, and their families who are experiencing the crisis of serious illness.
Did I mention this is the first time Debbie and I have lived in a small town? I’m learning that life in a small church in a small town is different. People process things differently and share information in traditional ways, including prayer requests. At first I thought we requested prayer for sick people because we weren’t praying for anything else. Now I know that everything in a small town is seen through the lens of relationships. Everything here revolves around family, even prayer requests. And, if not our family, somebody’s family that we know. So, we pray for sick people because they are people we know and care about. And that’s a good part of life in a small church in a small town. I’m learning.