‘Do Not Pray’ lists prove popular
DEARBORN, Mich. — Elias Al-Karim says he’s always gotten along well with his neighbors, who are evangelical Christians. But he was angered recently to learn that they had added his name, and the names of his wife and children, to Community Faith Center’s corporate prayer list. Elias called the church to complain.
"We do not want prayer from Christians, and we did not ask for it," he told a reporter. "It’s a violation to pray for someone without their knowledge or consent."
To ease tensions, the church did what many churches and ministries are increasingly doing: started a "do not pray" list. The list grew rapidly after Al-Karim alerted the local newspaper about his experience. Hundreds of Muslims, atheists, Mormons and even pagans called to have their names added to the list. Now when prayer requests come in to the church, names are checked against the list before they receive prayer.
"We have to respect people’s wishes," says the pastor. "If they really don’t want prayer, we honor that."
But many church members disagree.
"I can pray for whoever I want," says one member of the church who has started an underground prayer list and circulates it by email. "The reason they don’t want prayer is their minds are blinded. And that’s what I’m praying against."
Sharon Grumman, a self-described "blue-state liberal freakazoid" says she was furious to learn that a co-worker had put her name on Peace Lutheran’s prayer list in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"Who gave them permission to practice their religious voodoo on me and my children?" says the single mother. "I consider it spiritual harassment, even if I do think prayer is bogus."
Others feel the same way.
A devout Hindu shoe store owner in Cincinnati believes the prayers of a local church have hindered him from gathering great wealth.
"If I’m praying to my gods and the Christians are praying to theirs, the prayers cancel out," he says with evident frustration. He believes the church should reimburse him for lost revenue and has added his name to every do-not-pray list in the country. He believes a group of "zealous Baptist peoples" put his name on the lists in hopes of converting his family.
"I heard they were also praying for the country of India," he says. "My relatives live there, so I’m asking that they stop that as well."
Intercessors at churches with do-not-call lists say the policy impedes the spontaneity and flow of normal prayer.
"Instead of lifting people up to God, you have to do this bureaucratic thing right in the middle and search for their name on the list," says one prayer ministry leader. "It takes the oomph out of it."
Some angry people are calling for a national 1-800-NO-PRAYER line, akin to the "Do not call" line, to create a master list of people who want to be shielded from Christian prayer. But for now all efforts are local.
"It gives me great satisfaction to know that we are no longer being targeted," says Elias. •
All prayers for my continued well bring are gratefully accepted...