C.H. Spurgeon

Sinners, let me address you with words of life; Jesus wants nothing from you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Watch And Listen To Me Pray


I may get slam dunked for this post, but so be it. I am not presenting a limiting or discouragement to Christianity case here, but more posing a question for some Christian input.

On a recent blog there was a good question brought up regarding public prayer. It appears the blog author’s context is “organized school prayer and "prayer protests."”.

The blog author quotes Matthew 6:5-7, which I will also post here:

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 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.

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

First, we can consider the verses. They are in red in the red-letter edition Bibles, so these are the words of Christ. :) The chapter begins with the context of doing things to be seen of men verses doing things because it is right. He compares the hypocrite that simply gives, prays, fasts, etc. so they can appear holy to men, but that one should do these things because they are right and that God knows what we are doing so there is no need to make sure man sees us perform the acts.

If we only had verse 5 then the argument could easily be made that it is not that we cannot stand in the synagogues (now churches) and on the corners of the streets to pray, but that we are not to pray as the hypocrites to be seen when we do it. Can there be a difference you ask? I believe so. It is all in the motive, intent, desire. If one sets a time before they go to a public protests, etc. saying we will all pray at this time, that may be as the hypocrites, but if while at the protests, etc. one or more feel lead the pray and many follow that is not necessarily the same.

As for verse 7, which some have used against the rosary and such, simply means our prayers should be speaking to God not simply rambling a pre-printed prayer or saying words over and over again thinking our annoyance will demand God act. Vain repetition produces mechanical Christianity. I would include “repeat after me” prayers with this also.

Oh, but verse 6: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet”. What exactly is Christ saying here? Does He mean that we cannot pray at all unless we are in our own closet or that we can’t pray out loud unless in our own closet, or was He simply speaking in comparisons terms of praying where all can see, for personal glory, or where no one can see, for God’s glory?

I find it difficult to believe that Christ sincerely directly meant that one must only pray from within a closet, for I don’t even find Him doing such. What Christ did was not pray to draw attention to Himself.

We are to pray, there is no Scriptural doubt about that. We are to pray everywhere, pray without ceasing, etc., but this can be done without a large group needing to openly draw worldly attention to themselves.

I was recently introduced to a concept called “prayer walking” which involves walking around churches, schools, business, neighborhoods, etc. and praying. This is done in groups of two or three (are can be done alone) and draws no attention whatsoever. Well, no more attention than if we were simply two people walking a dog or simply exercising. You do it with your eyes open and speak to God audibly (or silently) in prayer for the things He brings to mind while continuing to walk (there is no stopping, kneeling, and bowing ones head). Silent and audible prayers can also be voiced on the way to and from work, while shopping, while doing most any activity including being part of a protest or while at school.

What necessitates the need for an outward display of large groups praying? Is it only so we can make sure that people know we are praying for them or against something they are doing? If one only thinks that God hears or answers prayer that is done so everyone knows it is being done, there is a problem. Also the posture or purpose of prayer is not to have one look at the person or people praying and suddenly feel they should agree or join with them. Conviction is the work of God, not man. We pray for God to work in people.

What about you who do not pray, who that are not a Christian, why does public prayer bother you so much? Do you get just as offended or upset with other displays from groups in society? Could you not turn away as people would prefer Christians do when you see something you do not like or wish to take part in? Why use a verse from a Book you do not believe, from a Savior you do not trust, to condemn a people or act you dislike?

6 comments:

The Alpha said...

What about you who do not pray, who that are not a Christian, why does public prayer bother you so much? Do you get just as offended or upset with other displays from groups in society? Could you not turn away as people would prefer Christians do when you see something you do not like or wish to take part in?

It's not that the simple act of public prayer bothers me. To be honest, it doesn't bother me at all provided that the act is voluntary and legal. I'm just curious as to whether public prayer is actually biblical in some of the ways I've seen or read about it .

What does bother me is the incessant need that some people have to push organized public prayer in public schools. As you said, "it is all in the motive, intent, desire." I fail to see how people believe it actually helps students if the motive, intent, and desire are absent. If the aforementioned qualities are present, then I think they'd pray without the school bureaucracy.

Another issue that came to mind when I posted was the "prayer protests" I'd read about. The sole idea of some of these "protests" is to be seen praying. Moreover, when some are cited for not following all of the laws appropriately, they play the victim. In all honesty, sometimes it just seems like some people want to play the martyr to justify their faith in some way.

Why use a verse from a Book you do not believe, from a Savior you do not trust, to condemn a people or act you dislike?

Similarly, one could ask why some Christians quote the Koran to condemn some Muslims. I personally don't believe I was condemning people. It was simply an honest question that I thought had some merit. If believers are going to question the behavior of secularists because they don't appeal to a supernatural authority, I think believers need to actually show that they follow the authority they seem to think society needs.

On another note, how does verse seven fit in with the Lord's Prayer? It's what I'd call a "Christian staple." It's learned at an early age and recited at all of the church services I've ever been to. What's not mechanical or pre-printed about the Lord's Prayer?

Sean said...

The Lord's Prayer, or the Our Father, was not Jesus telling us WHAT to pray, but HOW to pray.

Within the last year I've totally changed the way I pray. If I find myself repeating the same words or thoughts over and over, then I'll stop and refocus or stop entirely and actually spend time believing that God will work in the situations I've prayed about.

As for public prayer, I think it shows a lack of faith in believing that God will do what we ask of Him. In fact, it is more like a "sit-in" or protest than an actual prayer time. Might as well carry around picket signs and such...

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

The alpha, I appreciate the response. My questions to those that do not pray were more of a broad request and not really directed towards you alone.

Concerning organized prayer in school I follow what you are saying. I can’t really consider myself as a large promoter of organized prayer in school. One may say, “Why, you are a Christian right?” Yes, I am a Christian but Scripture claims that as my children’s father I am to teach them the things of God and how to pray. I don’t need or really want the public school system of America teaching my child how to pray. Children are free to pray in school and I am sure a lot do; if nothing else, “help me pass this test”, even though that might not be the right spirit. :) Is it really necessary for a set time that all children pray audibility or have a moment of silence to begin the school day? If there is, then it would most likely do a better job at home with their father (since Father’s Day is around the corner) or mother giving them an example by praying with them each morning before they leave to go to school or wherever. If we aren’t doing that, then we sure can’t blame the schools for not doing it then can we?

As for a prayer protests, I haven’t ever really seen one in person. When I was younger we did have a large gathering of holding pro-choice signs spaced out individually along the streets and met at the Louisiana State Capital while one did pray before and/or after they spoke. But I don’t remember us grouping up all kneeling and praying together. In my opinion if “The sole idea of some of these "protests" is to be seen praying” then it falls under Matthew 6:5.

“If believers are going to question the behavior of secularists because they don't appeal to a supernatural authority, I think believers need to actually show that they follow the authority they seem to think society needs.”

I would have to agree with your statement here. People’s actions speak louder than their words most often.

”On another note, how does verse seven fit in with the Lord's Prayer? It's what I'd call a "Christian staple." It's learned at an early age and recited at all of the church services I've ever been to. What's not mechanical or pre-printed about the Lord's Prayer?”

Assumingly you must have grown up Catholic? This is why I mentioned the rosary which includes the Lord’s Prayer. Whereas Catholics are usually taught to recite these prayers over and over again for sin or whatever else, Baptist (which I am) and most Protestants (assumingly) are not. The Lord’s Prayer as told by Christ in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 were meant for an example for the disciples asked, “teach us to pray”. If Christ had actually meant for us to pray that prayer word for word as it is done in some circles there would be evidence of such in Scripture. There is not. The vain repetition of the rosary along with the Lord’s Prayer or any prayer simply repeated over and over again is man-made and not found in Scripture. It is one thing to present a request or thought to God numerous times in prayer, but not the repetition of identical words that have been written or copied by someone else.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

Sean,

"If I find myself repeating the same words or thoughts over and over, then I'll stop and refocus or stop entirely and actually spend time believing that God will work in the situations I've prayed about."

This is what each of us need to consider. If our prayers are only repeating the same words we always say when praying there is a problem. Praying is talking to God and we don't always repeat and speak in repetition to our friends and family - or if we do they think we are crazy. lol

The Alpha said...

Assumingly you must have grown up Catholic?

Actually, I grew up attending non-denominational, Protestant services. For what it's worth, I've attended both Methodist and Lutheran services before and they recited the Lord's Prayer during service as well. Obviously I can't speak for all Protestant services, but recitation of pre-printed prayer is not unique to Catholicism. While it may not have been done in the same repetitious manner found in Catholicism, it was said every Sunday.

BEAST said...

My two cents worth:

There is no question whether people have the right to pray. They can pray all they want, but such acts of stupid piety cannot be practised in official functions: etc broadcasting prayers over PA systems, official school prayers and other such similar activities in secular government schools and bodies.

Individual prayer is a right, so just keep it that way. After all, no christian would want to hear muslim prayers broadcasted over a school PA system. Be fair, play fair.

Amigos
Beast

John Bunyan

To be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end. 'He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' (Mt. 24:13) Not that perseverance is an accident in Christianity, or a thing performed by human industry; they that are saved 'are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.' (1 Pet. 1: 3-6) But perseverance is absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul…. He that goeth to sea with a purpose to arrive at Spain, cannot arrive there if he be drowned by the way; wherefore perseverance is absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul.