At a church I recently visited, members shared prayer requests as part of the service. One lady raised her hand and simply said she had an “unspoken request.”
Though I’ve not heard that phrase in a long time, it was a common utterance at a church I once attended. It was almost always said by women, and it always puzzled me. What exactly was behind such a statement?
In considering how it was said, with the body language and tone of voice behind it—ranging from emotional turmoil to smug self-satisfaction—I formulated several possible interpretations:
- I am too embarrassed to say this aloud.
- My need is too shameful to mention.
- I really have nothing to share, but want to call attention to myself.
- I want to be mysterious and garner unwarranted sympathy.
- My request is not appropriate to share in a large group or in mixed company.
- I cannot put the pain in my heart into words.
I think at one time or another, each of these were a correct understanding of the motivation for the person who uttered this ambiguous phrase.
As for the lady who said it most recently, there was definitely a deep emotional pain behind it. I doubt if she could have said much more. In this case I was glad to pray for her—even compelled to do so.
More importantly, when we can’t form the words to express the turmoil within, God is able to understand our groan of a prayer anyway. With him, there is no such thing as an unspoken request.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.