Writing prayer letters can be dangerous, especially for ministers who live by faith gifts from those who read those letters! There is much good in this kind of communication, in celebrating what God is doing, in calling others to partner in His work, in sharing our lives and ministries. However I can see these dangers.
Our reward is robbed. Jesus said in affect that our lives ought to be for an audience of one. When we live our lives before an audience (ie old fashioned prayer letters, facebook, twitter, and blogs) we loose an opportunity keep our motives pure.
You can’t tell the whole truth. Most updates don’t feature things like ‘Here are the folks we didn’t baptize, or here are the pastors we’ve trained who have relapsed into the world, here are the unhealthy habits and sin patterns I can’t seem to beat, here are the ways we misused our time and resources, here are the ways our family is living in totally unresolved struggles.’
There are all kinds of pitfalls in writing prayer letters. Here is some advice on how to avoid at least some of them.
Don’t share all your victories. By God’s grace you’ve conquered some bad habit in your life, or led a friend to the Lord? Are you fasting, praying, organizing for some new work? Let some of the things you are doing be unsaid. It is not wrong to give people a window into your private life, your family life, and your ministry, in fact its our job, and can be very useful for helping encourage others. Yet for your own soul, for the sake of humility and for the Lord alone, keep some things you do all in areas of your life a secret, just because you love Jesus. Let the woman or man be more than the hype, not the other way around.
Don’t share all your defeats. Jesus said don’t cast pearls before swine. Its a vivid image, but God doesn’t want us to be unwise and foolish with our hearts. You need close friends to process the defeats in your life, don’t unload to your prayer supporters every single detail, as some kind of self-therapy. Your letters have a purpose of mobilizing prayer for the work of God, its purpose is not for you to vent. On the other hand I say don’t share ALL your defeats, by implication you must share some defeats. We must give a real picture of life. No life, certainly not missionary life is an endless succession of victories.
This was true even of our Lord, how much more for us? As God’s spirit leads there are times when it is right and responsible to open up in our prayer letters and seek the prayers of our friends and there are other times when its simply venting.
Make it a matter of prayer. Pray that God would protect your heart! Search your soul, as you post, tweet, or click send on that email it is good to ask yourself “Is it for God’s glory or for your own?.”
Take God seriously and yourself lightly. You may be (and really ought to be!) very excited about the work you are involved in, but please remember, God’s words describes you as a blade of grass. You are not God’s only or even main strategy for bringing salvation wherever you may be. On the other hand don’t undersell the value of serving the Lord, or his power. Listen, you can’t save the world, that job is already taken, so relax and enjoy the place God has given you in His plan.