Friday, May 24, 2002
Many have written on the proper posture of prayer in the life of the Pharisee so I thought I would take today’s column and address the issue of public prayer. Some of you seem to misunderstand the purpose of public prayer. I have had earnest students ask, “Isn’t all prayer, whether public or private, primarily a communion between the believer and God?” and to give an oversimplified answer to an oversimplified question, the answer is, yes. However, there is so much to the act of prayer beyond communing with God that we should take some time to examine them.
Prayer as Instruction – There are many believers who, for lack of a better term, are ignorant of proper decorum during prayer. Public prayer provides us an opportunity to demonstrate how to pray properly and with sufficient reverence. Use as many titles of God as you can employ in your prayers (Almighty, All Wise, Loving Father, Omnipotent Benefactor, etc.) so that less knowledgeable supplicants can learn how to address their Heavenly Father and Guardian of our Souls. We also use public prayer to instruct them in the proper content, delivery, structure and attitude during prayer. I feel that this is one of the chief benefits of public prayer.
Prayer as Identification – It is extremely important for us to let the world know of our spiritual devotion and dedication to God. Public prayer allows us to demonstrate a pious heart and show proper reverence for God so that others can see for themselves how truly righteous we are. This will inspire them to attempt to achieve our high level of spirituality and righteousness. If they never see good examples of how righteous people should live, how would they ever know what they may aspire to themselves? And of course, what can be more gratifying that the admiration of those who are seeking to emulate our examples and their public praise?
This is such a rich topic I can’t possibly fit it all into one memorandum but I hope to continue this at a later date. For now, I hope you can see the importance of public prayer. To limit such a glorious thing to merely communion with God is to lose vast opportunities for benefiting one’s own righteous standing before Him and everyone else who is looking to us for good example.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:4 (NIV)
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