Whenever we go to the hospital we immediately realise two things, there are many sick people out there and many with more serious conditions than us. It’s easy to feel whatever is ailing us is nothing compared to what our neighbour is going through. Haven’t you had that feeling when people are sharing prayer points? People ask for big things and God’s intervention in serious problems and you wonder if you should also share your small subtle problems. What does the man struggling with a cough say in front of those battling with a terminal illness? Are your prayers worth stating when there are others sleeping hungry, who need work, with sick children and in dire need of God’s immediate attention? But we all know that a toothache will still give you sleepless nights. We know a cough left unattended could get worse. That small subtle problem is a problem nevertheless. And it can hurt as much as what ails your friend in its own way.
I think the problem with living in a broken world is that with time we can become so accustomed to problems that we get used to them. Our newsrooms only report those serious sins because smaller habitual sins make no headlines. Similarly, I bet there are many people with small subtle prayers that go unheard by the church fellowship. Why? Because we think we should only share when things are going really out of hand. The man on the verge of addiction won’t say it until they are drowning in debt. A couple struggling in their marriage won’t share until the reality of separation dawns on them. A pastor who’s facing the temptation to pick an extra coin from the giving basket won’t share until he’s forced to or is caught. We keep what we think are small and especially shameful sins to ourselves until they become worthy of sharing with the church community. What we forget is these small and subtle problems are eating us alive from the inside. We forget that we are more likely to overcome them if we addressed them before they matured. When we ignore subtle prayers in our fellowship we give Satan space to devour us one by one.
It’s my feeling that we need to create an environment where people can share more openly about absolutely everything they might be struggling with. An environment that doesn’t wait for subtle problems to become huge prayer points. It may not be at the pulpit every Sunday or even before the midweek fellowship. But I believe the church will only be safe when small respectable sins are shared and confessed among brothers. When those shameful behind-the-closet things come to light in good time. When those small disagreements are shared in confidence but not left to simmer in silence. That means creating opportunities for even smaller and more friendly groups where smaller problems and subtle prayers can be shared. If we wait for people to arrange to see the pastors then we are saying wait until their sins become monsters and for their problems to get really serious. I don’t think we want to wait for that reality.
Subtle Biblical Application
But I think our preaching ought to also show that the word of God comes to bear in every situation, small or big, subtle or serious. Our biblical application cannot only target those known public sins and national news. We cannot just address the obvious evils that we all agree about. We cannot just speak of suffering in regard to loss and terminal illness. We cannot just pray in front of those we deem to have serious problems. We need to convey that small subtle problems are as serious. Actually, we need to say that’s where the word first touches. We need to call out the angry husband before he hits his wife. We need to speak of greed before it becomes corruption. Pray for lust before it leads to adultery. Most of the time what pastors do knowingly or unknowingly on the pulpit is to set the pace for what congregants think is important. If the pastor says it then we know it’s serious. The problem is if ministry leaders wait until it gets serious then we do the same in our smaller fellowships and in time we have to take matters back to them because they’ve gotten really out of hand.
But things don’t have to be always like this. We don’t have to keep that cycle of letting things blow out before we can call an emergency meeting. We can decide not to give the devil a foothold. We can decide to kill those small sins before they get any roots. We can expose those small dark corners before they create nightmares. We can bring our dissatisfaction before it becomes grumbling. We can lay down our love for fame before it overtakes God’s glory. We can speak those subtle problems and pray those subtle prayers. Imagine the difference it’d make if our fellowship is full of prayer points not because everyone is on the verge of destruction but because we take everything seriously. Because we take every small sin as an atomic bomb. Because we speak about every subtle issue without fear of being judged. Because like children we say what is on our minds and everyone listens regardless of how small an issue others might see it. Because we make those subtle prayers.