By Glen Young
The solution is to always remember that prayer, public or private, is a means by which Christians approach the throne of God.
Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers when the youngest one began praying at the top of his lungs. “I pray for a new bicycle. I pray for a new play station. I pray for a new VCR.” His older brother leaned over and nudged him saying, “Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.” To which the little brother replied, “No, but Grandma is!”
Men who lead prayer in our public assemblies need to pray to God, not to the audience. Jesus said, “And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matt. 6:5-8).
There is a real temptation, when leading public prayer, to pray to people rather than to God. We have all heard public prayers that preached a sermon. Another temptation is to make long prayers. The effort to extend a prayer will cause one to repeat the same things over and over. I believe Jesus referred to this as vain repetitions.
To avoid these temptations, do we stop having public prayers? The answer is no! We should pray at every opportunity and what better opportunity than when the whole church is come together in one place? The solution is to always remember that prayer, public or private, is a means by which Christians approach the throne of God. The nature of prayer is not for preaching lessons. It certainly isn’t a time for self-aggrandizement or to appeal to personal vanity.
It makes me wonder if men who lead public prayers haven’t forgotten that it is God who answers prayer not other men. I fear we are like the boy in our little story. We think if we are to get what we want, it must come from the people who hear us. God and God alone can grant our petitions provided they are within the scope of his will.
After giving the aforementioned warning, Jesus then gives a model prayer. After this manner therefore pray ye. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil (one)” (Matt. 6:9-13). The prayer is profoundly simple.
We don’t need to only confine ourselves to the model. For example, we cannot pray, Thy kingdom come, for it has already come. It is the church. We do need to pray from the heart to God, not from the street corners to be heard by men.