Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
How many times do people ask you to pray for something? I am guessing many of us are asked to pray. Most of the time, this is harmless, someone is asking you to pray for them, for an upcoming surgery or something rough in their lives. There are other times, however when you have someone say, would you please pray for X and Y because they are having financial issues in their marriage or would you pray for G because they lost their job last week, or would you pray for R and S because S told me her husband has been dealing with pornography. Wow. Prayer is powerful, and prayer can and does change lives, but sometimes we let the power and the lure of gossip overtake us.
As a church sometimes we are the worst with gossip. You’ve heard me say unfortunately the church is good at sharing two things: germs and gossip when we need to be good at sharing the Gospel or sharing grace. For many of us, the gold treasure of gossip overtakes us when we need to take a grenade to it and blow it up. Today, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on how to keep gossip out of prayer requests...and it’s in the acronym of S-H-A-R-E
S- Begin with self-reflection.
This is a very important step. Ask yourself, is this something that you would want to be made public knowledge? Is this something extremely personal? Is this something which is better to deal with a smaller amount of individuals?
H- Have I checked the facts?
Today in the social media realm, news agencies are concerned with providing the story first. Everyone wants to be first, but isn’t it more important to be accurate?
Within the last few weeks, I was asked about the health of a sibling of one of our members. I had not heard anything, so at the next opportunity, I asked. No. there wasn’t anything wrong with that person. If there was, it would have been news to them! Had I prayed for them, or sent a prayer chain, I would have been (unintentionally) spreading false news. Sometimes holding off, or tapping the brakes to get the details right is important. So and so is having surgery, well is it an appendix/tonsils or is it heart surgery...major difference!
A – Ask for Permission.
Is this something proper for me to share? Is this the right time to share?
This ties in with the idea of self-reflection, but quite frankly some of us share information too quickly. They are an open book. Not everyone is this way. There may be other people who should share this information as well, who have more details. For instance, let’s say someone is pregnant, would you not want to let the couple announce this exciting news? Would you not want the future grandparents to share the news? Why would we not use the same parameters for information which is not so exciting?
I heard the story of a man who asked for prayers in front of the congregation for him and his wife....without asking his wife. The couple, unfortunately, ended up divorced. Rumors can ruin an individuals reputation and severely affect their mental (and in turn) physical health.
R- Reliability of the Receiver(s).
Sometimes we need to consider the reliability of those around us. As Christians, we are called to build up one another, and we are to share in each other’s burdens. Some in our congregation may be “Nosey Nellies” or “Prying Peters.” They feed on gossip. If someone who is “loose-lipped” is in the audience, perhaps it is best to keep the information private.
E- Examine my motives.
What is the purpose of sharing this information? Do you honestly care about the individual you are praying for? Are you sharing for the recognition of being “in the know” or being influential? Are you looking forward to the rush after someone hears about this information? Am I using this as a conduit to gain more information to share later? None of these reasons are acceptable.
Puritan theologian Thomas Watson said, "God has given us two ears, but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God has set a double fence before the tongue, the teeth and the lips, to teach us to be wary that we offend not with our tongue." As Christian,s we need to season our conversations with love and grace, putting the interests of others above ourselves. This may include resisting the urge to share information to prayer.
Some of you may say, well, what if I share this anonymously? I would argue this is something we should avoid as well, because when we do, it may start someone else’s concern for the information. Pray for someone in our church who lost their job and immediately everyone is wondering, who lost their job! Leave a time of silent prayer together when everyone can voice these concerns.
This article is adapted from Matt Mitchell’s article, entitled Resisting Gossip. The article can be found here.