Jan 30, 2015

Why do clients pray for "small" things?

Prayer team members get a prayer request about once a month that comes from a specific client that day. Often the prayer request may seem small. "I want to eat a burger." You may wonder, "Why would a person pray for this thing that seems so small when there are so many thing upside down in their life?" That's a really good and insightful question.

First, I think it's theologically sound. God cares about the big stuff and the little stuff in our lives. He brought the little girl back to life (a big thing for sure) but then wanted to make sure she had something to eat (surely small in the face of resurrection). We are invited to share our lives intimately with God, and He cares about the details.

Second, we encourage clients to take change one little step at a time. This is part of our social work theory of practice. Big change is the goal, but what little thing can we effect today? So prayers for seemingly little things often represent the first steps of a big arc of change that the client has in mind.

Third, many clients are unsure what they want anymore. The street may have been the best place they have ever been when they arrived. So they are or perhaps were satisfied. Day to day demands of surviving on the street can be demanding. Daily drama from living in close quarters with a very large extended young "family" can grate. Toxins from daily stress frequently accumulate. Toxins and body chemistry issues can arise from possible substance use or abuse (not all--only about 40% of our clients). All of these tend to leave one numb and withdrawn. So when we ask what would you like us to pray for, there is often no answer at all. 

It's common to hear, "I'm good." Or "I have no idea." as the answer. When this happens, we don't give up. We engage and try to find out what they would like. We have lots of techniques, but our goal is to see if we can get them to take the risk of wanting something... anything. Often the seemingly small requests that they share are a result of this process of engagement. We cherish the little requests because it represents daring to name something that would help. Something that you trust us to know. Something that you dare to speak aloud in the hopes that God will hear. Often these a provision prayers... find what I need, get some food, get some drink, get some money. 

What should you do with these requests? Pray. And use your imagination. Talk to God about why this person might want this. Talk to God about what they might want next. Ask God to guide our clients to a next step and another. Pray that the client might start to get in touch with a possible future. Ask that our client find the energy and courage to hope in that future. Great and amazing things will happen!