Public and Private Praying
Luke 18 records a wonderful lesson on prayer. Two men went to pray, one a lowly sinner and one a religious fellow. The religious fellow prayed long and loud and reminded the Lord of what a fine Christian he was. On the other hand, the sinner would not even raise his head he had such humility and shame, and prayed a very short prayer. Only 6 words!, “God be merciful to me a sinner”. Jesus said of this sinner that he went home saved!
How many times have you heard a Pharisee kind of prayer on Sunday morning at church?; Long and loud, asking nothing and expecting nothing, except the praise of those who are listening. Jesus had something to say about public praying.
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6)
I have often heard some well intentioned person say after a public prayer, “that was a beautiful prayer”. Prayer is to get things from God, not to be pretty in the ears of the hearers. I know that personally I have to guard against praying to “be heard of men” when I am asked to pray in public.
I suggest that public prayers should be brief, to the point, asking God for His blessing on the meeting, asking for people to come to Christ, or something similar. I really enjoy King James English and use a New King James version of the Bible often in my study. However, prayer is not the time to use King James English. Great flowing theological terms, flowery speech, telling God what He already knows, and on and on, far too often describes public praying. Great long prayers ought to be for private praying in most cases. In your secret place of prayer, where you are not likely to put on airs, but simply ask, child to Father. In this place, you can pray as long as you wish and God will hear and answer.
I agree public prayer is often just that intended for the public.
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Great post. I get so tired of prayers uttered in King Jamese which is not the language we speak. I have also, believe it or not, heard public prayers in which the one praying actually thanks God that we aren’t like those other churches. They apparently miss the very clear application of this passage.
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Wonderful post, yet again Royce. I just blogged about this a few days ago (of course yours is more on key) There are times that people, especially in the closing prayer, will stand up there for what seems like 10 minutes…and it probably is. I am glad you made mention of it, the king james english, in longevity, can slightly urke me. I know, I know, I know, I should not be feeling that way, especially during the prayer, but I am a firm believer in there being too long of a prayer. Sounds bad, eh?
With no unkindness or bad feelings toward those who do get up in front of others to pray, let us not forget the REQUIRED lines:
“bring us back at the next appointed time…”, otherwise known as tonight at 6:00.
“guide, guard, and direct us”, down to the shoney’s for lunch…
“this fruit of the vine, which represents thy blood”
“to return a portion of that which you have blessed us with”
Great post, by the way. The part about “telling God what he already knows” is so accurate.
To me, the only time that a lengthy prayer is needed in public is when the pray-er is being obviously touched to say something unusual (i.e. genuine personal anguish or joy that can’t help but be expressed), or when there is a BIG issue that concerns all present (i.e. spiritual sickness in the church, severe health problems, acts by the church that need guidance, etc…). 10 minute, flowery, King Jimmy prayers that bounce back off the acoustical ceiling tiles and go no higher aren’t exactly what Jesus was talking about (I think), but they certainly approach it.
Maybe this goes back to my feelings about almost everything else in our assemblies: it doesn’t resemble what the first generation church did, and is more contrived than inspired. I don’t think anybody purposely distorts the concepts, but they have just ended up in this condition.
I hope that made sense.