The other day I in church I heard the word preached and found one small part of the message to be very suitable to a specific individual or two in the congregation. So I offered up a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit. I really desired for the parties to be convicted and return to the stream of living water instead of fetching water from broken and empty wells. Was this a wrong thing to do?
You may have heard it said before, “Don’t think THEY need to hear this message, because YOU need to hear it.”And that is true, but it is only partly true. It is true because I need to hear the gospel and its applications every week. But again, this is far too simplistic.
For instance, if a pastor is preaching on the importance of being regular in corporate worship (which we’ll always preach b/c to be among God, His Word, His people is absolutely necessary-you won’t grow if all three aren’t in place), and someone who doesn’t value coming to church hasn’t heard this, then we ought to wish, pray for, and follow up with them. Or there could be someone involved in adultery, stealing, lying, and we should pray briefly for them.
Now here’s the danger.
The danger in thinking that someone else needs to hear a message is that you can tend to think ONLY someone else needs to hear it, but that YOU don’t need to. Even if I’m not literally unfaithful to my wife, I still commit adultery in my heart with lust, and all sin is described in general as spiritual adultery (Ezek 16:2, Matt 12:39, James 4:4). I should pray for myself when I pray for others.
One way to avoid what Jesus called “plank-eye”-at least I think he probably would have been cool with that terminology-is to see our own sin as of equal or greater value (sounds like a coupon doesn’t it?). You may not be living in an adulterous relationship, but you do lust-you need prayer as well. You might be regular in worship, but that very often has nothing to do with Jesus-you need prayer as well.
So I think I was right in briefly praying for a specific conviction for a specific party while the word was being preached, because I also prayed for my own heart at the same time. If I had prayed for conviction for that party and NOT my own sin, then I would be guilty of Plank-eye.
So in summary, I believe it is OK to pray for conviction and for the Word to pierce the heart of those in the congregation, provided you also pray for conviction for yourself in that or another area.