Wasted Prayers

Prayer has always been an integral part of all “worship” whether Christian or Pagan. Have you ever given thought to how many prayers on any given day are offered up in this wide world? Think about the reasons why people pray...despair, gratitude, want, joy, fear, duty, greed, form. Think of many rituals that are a part of the praying of various religions and cultures. What must “He who sits above the circle of the earth” think as He listens to all of them? It is a sobering and sad contemplation!

 

Let's narrow it down to just the public prayers that are offered in the worship services of our Bible-believing and Bible-preaching churches. If we were to take the time and give serious thought as to whether the prayers in our services reflect an honest and true worship or whether they have become just our own ritual and a segue into the next part of our services, what conclusions would we draw?

It is easy over time to become complacent and apathetic in our worship services and that happened in the early Christian churches as well, especially as Christianity gained favor in the Roman world and the persecution of Christians eased up and the churches slowly started enjoying the benefits that currying favor with the rulers brought. (The Church walking “hand in glove” with the world is not new!) Church history provides evidence that as the persecution diminished, the need to depend on God diminished and slowly so did the Church's spiritual vitality, and love for the things of this world (the Apostle John called it “the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life”) seeped into the Church like a miry bog that slowly sucks people in. Today we are not shocked by anything that goes on in the name of Christ, are we? (It should be pointed out that there have always been those individuals or groups of believers who kept the light of Truth burning brightly regardless of the price to be paid.)

Winston Churchill said; “Most people, at some point in their lives, stumble across the Truth, but most pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and go about their business as if nothing had happened.” Could we insert the word 'churches' for people? Doesn't that happen when truth quietly becomes irrelevant and there is an underlying unspoken conclusion drawn that God Himself is irrelevant?

Since man is a praying creature, regardless of the spiritual state of the Church through the ages he never stops praying and as form and ritual set in many churches as early as the second century added the reciting of prayers and creeds as an important part of their services and prayer was on its way to becoming what it was never meant to be...impersonal. The sacred privilege of being able to call a holy sovereign God our “Father” is diminished by repetitious ritual and formality that just goes through the motions. God says those prayers are wasted. Isaiah 59:1,2; “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”

So, how does a church keep from the “vain repetition” that makes prayer a form and instead foster a spirit that says God is here with us as we worship and our desire is to please and praise Him? I think the answer starts with the familiar words of Jesus; “When you pray, go into your room and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5,6) Jesus practiced what He preached and every one of the four Gospels records instances of Him going alone to pray. (Matthew 14, Mark 14, Luke,6, John 17.)

In private prayer we are able to personally thank God for His goodness to us, to unburden our hearts to Him alone (without wondering what others think of our prayer), to ask for His guidance in those intimate matters that are just between God and us. Prayer is the acknowledging of our dependance on Him. It renews and refreshes our spirit AND we bring that spirit with us into our church worship.

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