In the comments on my last post Jennifer (whom I was so pleased to hear from: do hope all's well, J?) wondered
Does the church staff there where you are pray together for the parishioners and for their requests? I'm not sure how it's done at my own church, but we have prayer request forms that we can put in the offering plate. Then, every Monday, the pastoral care staff gathers together at 1:00 PM to pray for anyone mentioned on those forms.
Here at St M's, we have a prayer board in the side chapel, beside a supply of tea lights in a sand tray, so that people can come in, write a prayer request and light a candle seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Generally, people are more apt to light candles than to leave anything in writing, but we harvest any prayers from the board that same day, and will pray them during the intercessions at Morning and Evening Prayer, when whoever is leading will weave the need into that part of the prayers...We also have a (very long) list of the sick (both within the parish and families and friends), which is prayed aloud on Sunday mornings and most weekdays by the clergy plus anyone else joining in the Daily Office. Prayers from the board which are specifically about sickness will be added to this list, as will prayers for the departed and their families (who are prayed for for a week following their funeral). People are often reticent about asking for prayer for themselves,- I have a sad feeling that they see it as a very last resort. Certainly, one lovely parishioner who died just after Christmas would only allow me to add his name to the prayer list in his last fortnight of life, though we all knew that he was in the end-stage of cancer for far longer...and that seems to be pretty typical. Indeed, it reminds me of the way, when I was a lay chaplaincy visitor for the children's ward at the local hospital, anxious parents would take huge care to ensure that I knew their child was "only in for his tonsils", as if the very appearance of anyone even semi-clerical could only be a harbinger of doom. What a sad situation to have reached...
We do have a genuine dilemma as to how to remove anyone, ever, from the sick list. Sometimes, in the case of chronic illness, a name can remain there for years, long after anyone in the congregation has a clue who they are praying for...and it is kind of disheartening for them to hear the same empty names read week in, week out. But pruning, unless we actually know an outcome, feels very harsh too. Does anyone have any bright ideas here?