Okay, first off, this idea is completely not my own. A good friend has long held this idea, but he does not want to be cited in this article for fear of ramifications in his current cultural context. But the show must go on....
What we have above is a hierarchical chart that basically defines who is allowed to pray for who at the altar. The theory goes that there are clearly defined roles for each church patron on who they can allow to pray for them and who they can pray for. Within these rankings (which can allow for promotion/demotion as necessary), the answer comes as to who is more spiritual than who and with that, a level of respect/contempt is associated with the appropriate level accordingly.
An expansion of the roles outlined in the picture above
The Pastor-This is pretty much self-explanatory. The only occasion by which the pastor (or bishop) may be prayed for is by the following population figures (the numbers in parenthesis denoting the amount of people necessary from said group that can then pray for the pastor):
-The Pillars (3-5)
-The Steady bunch (4-6)
-The Youth Group as a whole
-The church as a whole
-The Emotional- (never...but it does happen on occasion and it's always Awkward)
-The Sinner (don't even think about it)
Further, the Pastor is the only one who it can be said that he may pray for anyone he likes. And when the pastor makes his way to pray for someone (most of the time it's the sinner and/or "the one going through a lot") a reaction by the one getting prayed for is mandatory. If the reaction is apathetic, expect an attempt at an exorcism or the stretching of hands all over the congregation in the direction of the spiritual crisis.
The Leadership/Elders- Once again, pretty self-explanatory. It must be said the roll of the leadership/elder is generally much more actively involved with the rest of the congregation than that of the pastor.
The Pillars-They are the rocks of the church. While not bound by a formal title, the amount of respect they command is pretty much the same of that of the leader/elder. Outside of those above, do not think about praying for these pillars. Although pillars do tend to pray for each other (horizontally), and it is quite common to see one pillar "getting it" in regards to the Holy ghost, and to be supported by 1-2 fellow pillars encouraging the "getting it." After roughly 5-10 minutes of one pillar "getting it," the tables are occasionally turned where the one who "got it" turns to the prayer supporter and encourages them to "get it."
The Steady/but taken for granted- They are the ones who you don't have to worry about. They are consistent at church but they don't yet command the respect that the pillar commands in the years of reputation build up. Generally, they are not usually involved praying for others (save a best friend), but at the same time, most people let them have their space and go unprayed for. That is, until one of "the steady" start "getting it" and at such a point, the pillar/fellow steady brethren become encouragers. Unlike the "pillars" the "steady" person who starts to "Get it" rarely turns the table on the encourager. Also, it can be seen on occasion to find the "emotional" for the class below to be praying for them in usually a spat of boldness/confusion/misinformation.
The Emotional/ "Going through a Lot"- While on the same level of respect on the hierarchy, the "Emotional" are not to be confused with those who are "Going through a lot."
- The emotional are the ones sobbing the loudest at a sad worship song and dancing the hardest at the first note of Eddie James' "Freedom". Further, it is "the emotional" who are the least respectful of the altar hierarchy system. At any given moment, the "emotional" can be seen praying for a church elder, pastor's wife, or a Sunday School Teacher. It is the "emotional" who are usually the ones running around with anointing oil of their own and praying for the foreheads of any unsuspecting church member (usually complete with "head rocking" and speaking in tongues the volume of a Ramones concert. Essentially, despite being the second lowest level of authority in the altar hierarchy system, the "emotional" assume the role of the elder.
- "The Going Through a Lot" is pretty self explanatory. This group consists of those who were recently found out to be living in some kind of God-forbidden sin (such as those who were kicked off the platform) and are now repentant. Also it is those who are going through some massive trial not for the faint of heart (death/divorce/dehydration, etc...). It is when one sees people from the "steady" grouping praying for a pillar quite passionately that it is safe to assume the former pillar has now assumed the role of "Going through a lot." It is at such an altar sight that the rumor mills begin churning as to why Bro. So-and-so was kicked off the platform or speculation that Sis. Courtney discovered her daughter coming out of a near-by movie theater and thus is weeping for her daughter's salvation. At such a point, Sis. Courtney demotes herself from "pillar" to "Going Through a lot" in hopes that the demotion will serve as a promotion of her rebellious daughter who is confined to the stage of sinner....
But there is a dynamic about the sinner that makes them different from the rest. Just like the pastor can only be prayed for by a group of members of the lower classes, the same must be said of the sinner. To begin, the sinner can only be prayed for by either an elder/parent/pastor. The rest stay away in fear of the demoniac or in hopelessness. However, once one of the “permitted” begin to pray for the sinner, the rest of the congregation will soon gang-pray the sinner to salvation.
The “Gang-Pray until breakthrough” is one of the weirdest rituals in our apostolic circle. Not only is there no bible for the practice, but there does not seem to be any spiritual utility to the act. Why must the congregation gather around the sinner? Can’t the same effectiveness of spiritual breakthrough happen with the congregation spread throughout the church? But yet these prayer barbarians gather around the sinner in hopes that the Lord may have His way. The strangest part is that the praying of a sinner does not seek for repentance from the sinner. For that is not good enough. Rather and quite sadly, the only thing the “gang-pray” will be satisfied with is when the sinner is either sobbing uncontrollably or is dancing ecstatically. Only when there is an act of visual emotion displayed do we know God has had his way with the sinner.