Is there a correct way to pray?


  • Question from LH, USA

    In our church people have an opportunity to share their prayer concerns and joys. A lot of the time I feel these prayer requests are really just information sharing. Which I guess is okay because they can be prayers too and we all have pure and impure motives when we pray, we are a broken people! But now people would like a follow up to these concerns. They would like an elder to contact them after the prayer request and I guess see how it went. My question is: isn’t this taking the focus then away from God and putting it back on to us? Aren’t we then sort of checking up on God? And aren’t we then sending the message to the congregation that this is a time of information sharing and a call to have a pastoral visit, instead of focusing on God and asking Him alone to transform people? Or am I missing the point of the sharing time during corporate worship?

    Corporate prayer in Christian religious services has a long history, stretching back to Peter’s prayer shortly before the selection of Matthias as a replacement for Judas Iscariot in Acts chapter 1, verses 24-25. However, it would seem that even among the earliest Christian gatherings, there were some difficulties when it came to corporate expressions of worship (see, for example, 1 Corinthians chapter 14, verses 26-40).

    As Christianity became more structured, corporate prayers were usually led by the recognised leaders, or priests, and this system is found in many traditional denominations today. However, there has been a move in recent years towards setting time aside in Christian services for ‘open prayer’. As is ever the case, freedom of expression can lead to problems.

    One of the clearest examples of the misuse of public prayer found in the New Testament is in the parable where Jesus contrasts the motives of the ‘holy’ Pharisee and the ‘sinful’ tax collector (Luke chapter 18, verses 9-14). In this short fable, the Pharisee uses his prayer to tell others about his own holiness, while the sinner addresses only God and asks for forgiveness. The Pharisee thus abuses the prayer time and it does him no good in the eyes of God. Taking this parable and applying it to the scenario outlined in the question, it would seem that moving the focus of prayer from God to the needs of the person praying, is less than ideal.

    However, it would appear that there is a genuine case of unmet pastoral needs in this given situation. It is probably the case that meeting the pastoral needs of the church members will help in any attempts to re-focus corporate prayer.

     

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