Hey, Calvary Fremont –
Some public prayers really need a shave and a haircut. They are too long, too unruly, and like a man who doesn’t clean his beard – has bits of today’s, yesterday’s, and the day before yesterday’s food scraps in it. Some public prayers are all over the place!
I wrote a few days ago that I’m becoming a fan of short prayers. A pastor friend told me that a pastor friend told him –
The first minute you pray, I am praying with you.
The second minute you pray, I am praying for you.
The third minute you pray, I am praying against you!
That may be starkly worded, but I get it. In talking about prayer, we need to keep two things conceptually distinct though they cannot be separated in practice – the depth of faith and the length of the prayer. Remember, it took the leper under three seconds to ask Jesus to cleanse Him – and Jesus did. It took the centurion just over four seconds to get Jesus moving his way to heal his servant. If prayer is just asking God to do stuff, most prayers would be short. Even people with a long list of needs would find themselves taking less time to pray. “Heavenly Father, please heal Aunt Betty, and save Uncle Tom, and help the homeless, fill the pastor with Your Spirit, send another Children’s Ministry Director our way, help the hurricane victims in Haiti, and please get Russia out of Ukraine. In Jesus’ name – Amen.” That took me less than 18 seconds to pray that. If I had a list three times longer, I could pray it in less than a minute. Yet the typical evangelical would make that list into a four to five minute prayer. Why?
Again, maybe to impress God, or please God, or to impress people, or to keep themselves from feeling guilty for praying short prayers. But God isn’t into long prayers – He’s into faith. Faith can pray short prayers and be honoring to God. And faith can pray long prayers and be honoring to God. Deep faith doesn’t necessarily mean short prayers. The Bible commends short, faith-filled prayers, and at the same time it doesn’t condemn long, faith-filled prayers. We’ve all had the experience of listening to someone pray and have just endured the experience. We’ve also had the experience of being caught up in someone’s prayer, being swept along by their faith and zeal as they worship and cry out to God about things that not only touch the heart of the one praying, but touch our hearts, as well. It feels like a holy moment because we are no longer conscious of time and what’s around us in that the one praying in the Spirit had made us aware of God and heaven and eternity. Their prayer became our prayer. In their prayer we worshipped, we confessed our sin, we rejoiced in Christ our Savior, and we were filled with hope, and saw the glory of God. We patiently endure some prayers and we joyfully participate in some prayers.
If you are asked to pray in a public setting, ask yourself, “What are the needs, hopes, dreams, and brokenness of the people in the room?” Don’t pray with yourself in view, pray with them in view. Pray something like this, “Father, there are some here weighed down with the guilt of sin, smothered in shame. Others are mourning a broken dream. Some are mourning grievous losses. Jesus, pour out of Your Spirit and restore and fill us with Your hope. Meet us in this place. In Jesus’ name – Amen.” This prayer has a thousand variations.
Deep faith can translate into short prayers.
Deep faith can be expressed in long prayers – both privately and publicly.
When I preach, it is imperative that I bring the people along with me. I fear that, at times, I’ve left them stranded in the introduction and by the time I’ve reached the Finish Line, they’re still milling around the Start Line. This can happen in public prayer. It’s imperative that you bring the people along with you. Unfortunately, often it happens that by the time you say, “In Jesus’ name – Amen,” they’re still milling around the beginning of your payer with, “Dear Heavenly Father.” In preaching and in praying – bring the people along with you.
Two women were talking about their pastors. One said, “Our pastor is so deep that he always goes over our head.” The other responded and said, “He’s not deep, just a poor shot!”
In preaching (if just to your children) and in praying – bring the people along with you.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim