“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Prayer I

To start the prayer series, I wanted to address something that I am guilty of; therefore am qualified to address... :-)

I have noticed in my own life as a pastor, and in the ministries of most of the folks I know, that our extemporaneous prayers lack a certain aspect that I believe to be vital. That is, starting prayer with the recognition of who God is.

In my prayer life I used to always open my prayers, both liturgical and extemporaneous, with Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam -- "Blessed are you, Lord God, king of the universe". Thereby addressing the King of the Universe with the proper protocol -- yet, I find myself anymore being much more 'casual' and just jumping into 'what I want to say'. So many prayers, by pastors and congregational members, start off by jumping right into what interests/concerns us.

When we look through the Bible and examine the great prayers, we find that these prayers are God-honoring -- i.e. Nehemiah 1:5, 6 -- O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned.",

or Matthew 6:9, 10 -- “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Sadly, I think that our overall lack of understanding, or even recognition of a holy, transcendent God leads to a cavalier and even arrogant approach to the throne. And this is reflected in prayers which lack depth and honor.

Now, do not get me wrong, there are many types of prayers, ranging from prayer as simple as Peter sinking into the water and crying out "Help Lord!" Matthew 14:30, to the fantastic prayers of Solomon, David and others. Prayer can take many forms, but again, I am addressing this as a pastor -- I think that pastoral prayers have become a lost art in so many corners of Christendom, and as I said, I am guilty of this.

I have been reading through several books on prayer and here is a pastoral prayer opening that highlights what I am trying to illustrate:

O Lord, You are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. You have given to us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification in our Lord Jesus Christ. You have supplied all our needs according to Your riches in glory in Christ Jesus. We can do all things through Your strength.

Do you see the focus there? It starts with God and not with us and our needs/concerns etc. How rarely we pray with a central focus on God anymore.

We need to get back to a proper focus on God in all things; starting with our prayer life!


Even So... said...

Excellent, we must see Him in His transcendance BEFORE we see Him in His immanence...I wrote a recent post (last week?) called the "transcendent measure" that is in accord with these thoughts...looking forward to more...blessings to you and yours...

Dave said...

Great stuff, Ray!!

Our prayers should BOTH start and end with a praise unto God Our Father. Remember, Jesus ended the "model" prayer with, "Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever." There are seven (!) elements to our prayers to God as outlined in the Lord's Prayer, with praise and worship being #1 and #7.