Unspoken Prayer Requests

prayerUnspoken prayer requests are a staple of any fundamentalist prayer meeting. Far from being a simple acknowledgment of an private and personal need, “unspokens” have a variety of classifications.

The All Inclusive This is the most common form of the unspoken request. This call for a show of hands often comes at the end of time for spoken prayer requests, but can also come at any time before someone prays. (Bro. Dwight will now bless the food, are there any unspoken prayer requests out there?) If a person can’t think of a specific unspoken request it’s best just to raise a hand anyway in case they think of one later that they needed covered. This call for unspoken requests may also be accompanied by calls for responses from anyone who has unsaved loved ones, knows someone sick, is wearing a red sweater, etc.

The Guessing Game These are unsolicited unspoken requests given in midst of a call for prayer requests. They are often stated in the form of “I have a very special and important unspoken request.” The game for the audience is to try to guess what the person’s unspoken request might be by counting the number of adjectives used to describe it. Bonus points are awarded to the person with the most creative answer in the after-church unspoken request phone chain.

The Spoken Unspoken There are also the quasi-unspoken requests which go something like “I have an unspoken request that I really can’t talk about that involves my sister. I can’t say a lot but her marriage is having some trouble…and without giving a lot of details there’s also a Bolivan chef named Roberto involved and his three adopted kids and their second grade teacher.” The air is filled with the sound of pencils scribbling furiously on prayer request sheets around the room. Who knew that the unspoken could say so much?

(thanks to mark for the unspoken suggestion)

19 thoughts on “Unspoken Prayer Requests”

  1. The “Spoken Unspoken” request is so true. I can’t tell you how many times I heard those as a kid.

  2. I always got a chuckle out of the varying degrees of importance to unspoken requests. This is evident when you see them listed on the Wednesday night prayer roster, as some of them will be in bold, some will be underlined, and some both bold and underlined. Once every unspoken request is both bold and underlined, you need additional qualifiers to make yours stand out, such as by putting (imp.) next to them, and then (very imp.). You can chain unspoken requests together if you have more than one by putting a number after them, for example, John Doe (5).

  3. I like the “Guessing Unspoken.” It definitely gave the family something to talk about on the car ride home. “I guess Mrs. Soandso is going through some really hard stuff. I wonder what her unspoken was..?” Insert guesses. LOL.

  4. I always enjoyed it when, after the prayer request time, we moved into the “bragamony” testimony time. Any fundie or ex-fundie would remember what those were like. My experience with bragamony time was even better than most because even though I didn’t have a baby, I would sit with some friends in
    the crying babies” room with the one way glass where moms could look through the window and watch/hear the service but the rest of the auditorium couldn’t hear or see the crying babies. It was most awesome when all the crying babies had fallen asleep and the ladies in the room shifted into a witty mystery science theater 3000 commentary on what was being said. And if the commentary was especially funny and you laughed hard enough, you could make yourself cry- which was just perfect so that when the service was over, folks assumed either you were a worn out new mother or especially moved by what had been shared. Ah yes, those were the days…

  5. I was at a church where we had two ladies who would attempt to outdo each other for length of prayer requests. After the first instance (realizing that they were merely letting the Apostle Paul have it for not letting them be preachers) I timed them on my watch. Usually, Mrs. X would go about 5 minutes for her spoken unspoken, and then Mrs. Y would see her and raise her by about 45 seconds. After they were done, nobody in the room had any idea what to pray for, and no one dared to ask for fear of a recapitulation. The pastor spoke to Mrs. X privately about the matter and she left the church! I’d like to say I learned a valuable lesson, but it would be hard to quantify it.

  6. Thanks again for the memories. It has been a long while since I have been in a fundy church but reading this makes it seem like yesterday. Oh how I used to groan when a special person began with her request. Long and dragged out as if she were the only one with a request.

  7. Is it me, but it seems as if all the references to these “unspoken” requests are about women??? Um, does that say anything? 🙂

  8. Did anyone ever hear the “arithmetic unspokens? It went like this:
    “I want to add two this week.”
    “I want to add four this week and take away two from last week.”

  9. I was in a service where a guy’s “smoking habit” got prayed for; when he raised his hand and said, “Unspoken,” the pastor thought he said, “I’m smokin’!”

    1. A friend’s father was a stalwart church member and a chain smoker. A brother church member tried to talk him into stopping smoking by saying, “Think how much money you could give to the church that you’re spending now on cigarettes.” The father thought for a moment and said, “A lot. But then how would I pay for my cigarettes?

  10. My old church would go through the spoken requests, and then they’d ask for a show of fingers for the unspokens (which would be tallied – “Okay, how many on the piano side, Brother Andy? 175? Brother Paul – how many on the organ side? 210? That’s, uh, let’s see, 385 this evening.”) The kids were always trying to think of some request or other to inflate the count (in all earnestness).

  11. anybody ever get the spoken unspoken from someone else about you. Thats always fun. Its starts with “I have this friend (as they stare directly at you attracting the eyes of everyone else in the room) who is struggling with sin…” And then everyone pats you on the back on your way out, and you get invited to everyones “bible studies”. Yup, fun stuff.

  12. I just can’t tell you how fun it is to hear about a spoken unspoken from a near stranger in a grocery store. I actually found myself saying, “Well, I wasn’t aware that my mother was so concerned about my daughter’s decision to wear thongs rather than briefs, and I didn’t know she was pretty concerned that our children would join a coven because they have seen Harry Potter or that she was fairly certain my husband was hell-bound. But thanks for the tip.”

  13. I had a teacher in High School who would begin every class with prayer requests and (Student led) prayer for each request. Very early in the schoolyear the students realized that he would NEVER cut short the prayer time as long as there were requests for prayer being made. We got out of so many quizzes and tests for lack of time in that class, but the things we prayed for… (My cousin has a wart. She tried everything to get it to go away…) Ah who cares if I have no idea what the periodic of the elements table is. 😐

    1. Oh boy, I remember the length of requests, seems among my friends over half of them were sick or dying. Of course I never could remember if anyone recovered or not, we did mean well. 😉
      I remember being so happy when my mother got rather ill once, told her “Now we can all pray for you in school!” We still laugh about that sometimes. 😀

  14. “The Guessing Game” request sounds familiar. At my fundy U, one girl I was in prayer group with for a semester was fond of these. She was a friend, but she tended to be self-important. Everyone else would simply say “I have an unspoken”, but she always had to qualify with “I have a very special unspoken” to make it sound more important. I always had the urge to tell her that if she wanted “special” prayer for something then she was going to have to be specific.

  15. I’ve always found the unspoken prayer request to be generally sincere. I didn’t realize it was a fundystan tradition. I thought the pentocostals, catholics and methodists would utilize the idea.

    I guess I was wrong.


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