July 11th, 2007

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The Disciplines: prayer. Matt. 6:5-8

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Many fine guides for prayer have been published in recent years regarding prayer. Generally, they follow the points found in this passage and build upon them. Pray is to God, not to others. It is to be honest conversation with God. The topics dealt with in the Model Prayer, which follows, should be addressed. Simplicity in prayer is a virtue.

This past Sunday I worshiped with an African American and with an Hispanic congregation. The first is a church which was burned by arsonists in February of 2006. In August of 2007 a new building, one that many volunteers contributed to and on which many other donated work, was dedicated by the congregation.

This morning’s prayer centered on thanksgiving to God for life, for care, for comfort and for blessings. Often, the content was very personal. Lines that expressed thanks for awakening that morning clothed in one’s right mind were uttered. The serice concluded with an altar call prayer in which the worshipers expressed their needs and their petitions to God.

I did not understand much of the content of the prayers in the Hispanic worship. But I sense that they were heartfelt and directed to God.

Public prayers may be the point of most difficulty in complying with the teachings of Jesus in this passage. Sometimes, I find myself preaching to the audience more than having a conversation with God. Sometimes, I find myself tempted to use the traditional prayer phrases of my people. But in my better moments, I see myself as uttering the prayers on the hearts of myself and my fellow worshipers. I see myself as an advocate for us all.

During the period that a friend was the interim pastor in a nearby church, I enjoyed Wednesday night prayer meetings very much. He would lead us in “directed prayer.” That is, he would speak out topics for prayer and give each of us time to pray about that matter silently. This insured that we talked with God about many, appropriate things.