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?