More than the sounds of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, The Lord on high is mighty. Psalm 93:4

Boston Bombing

I receive periodic emails from The Presidential Prayer Team, an organization whose stated mission is “encouraging, inspiring and practicing PRAYER on behalf of our President, nation’s leaders and our troops”  1 Timothy 2:1-2. I enjoy reading their recommendations and the reminder they are for me to pray for those people and issues. You will note, at www.presidentialprayerteam.com, the caption under their logo reads, “GOD-COUNTRY-FAMILY.”

On April 15th PPT sent an email call to prayer in response to news of the Boston Marathon bombing. Now, I’m going to be a bit overcritical of their initial prayer recommendations, but I hope it is received as constructive criticism.

I like their order of prayer focus: “GOD-COUNTRY-FAMILY.” It is similar to my prayer focus on JESUS-OTHERS-YOU (JOY) and to the example giving by Jesus in the model prayer. Why shouldn’t, then, the PPT list of prayer recommendations follow their own order of priority? Especially when the order appears so prominently on everything they publish.

The three prayer prompts given on the PPT prayer alert April 15th were, pray:

  • For the first responders, hospital personnel and others who are attending to the wounded,
  • For the families who have lost loved ones, and for the injured, and
  • That investigators will rapidly discover the source or reason behind the explosions.

I enjoy and appreciate PPT but, I have noticed that The Presidential Prayer Team rarely follows their own suggested emphasis when providing Prayer Alert’s. Why not call us to pray like this? Pray:

  • (GOD) a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s unseen hand in the midst of this crisis and for His Name to be lifted up in the days that follow,
  • (COUNTRY) for the families who have lost loved ones, the injured, and those who are responding with care and and assistance, and
  •   (FAMILY) that I will lead my family by my example reacting to this horrific event with appropriate compassion, concern and action.

That’s what I think.

Public Prayer?

Is public prayer forbidden in scripture? Is prayer a completely private matter? Should churches dispense with the practice of calling upon someone to lead in prayer during worship or Bible Study? Some Christians have taken the words of Christ in Matthew 6:5-6 as an injunction against any public prayer. “When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

The command of Jesus regarding prayer is — do not pray to be seen by men like the hypocrites do. The way to avoid hypocritical prayer is prayer in secret. This does not mean that public prayer does not have its place for sincere believers gathered together under the authority of our Lord Jesus.

Some Christians claim that every occurrence of Jesus praying was by Himself in private. This simply isn’t true. When Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the 5000, “He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, he broke them and started giving them to the disciples . . .” (Matthew 15:36). That sounds like public prayer to me. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, “Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples . . .” (Matthew 26:26). That sounds like public prayer.

The model prayer Jesus gave his listeners immediately after His instruction to pray in secret was a public prayer. “Give us this day . . .” Forgive us our debts . . .” “Deliver us from evil.” This is very reminiscent of the public worship prayers of the book of Psalms. The nation of Israel voiced a prayer together as in Psalm 80, “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; . . . O God, restore us and cause Your face to shine upon us, . . .” and in Psalm 90, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Public prayer has been a part of the practice of Christians from the beginning. In the story of Acts one where we find a gathering of about 120 persons in the upper room, Peter stood up in the midst of them and called for the selection of someone to replace Judas. “So they put forward two men, . . . and they prayed and said, ‘You Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen.”  This was public prayer. Peter and John were arrested after Peter’s second sermon in Acts 4. Beginning in verse 23 it says, “When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with on accord and said, ‘O Lord, it is you who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, . . .”

I do not mean to minimize the importance of private prayer. But, in Matthew 6 Jesus was not condemning public prayer any more than he was condemning giving alms to the poor. He was condemning a hypocritical public display of righteousness. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them, (Matthew 6:1). I only call your attention to all of this because God’s Word Matters.