In yesterday’s post, I asked the question, "What do our prayers say about us?" I have been thinking about some of the recurring themes, as well as some of the gaps in our prayers (my own included). What do we rarely mention that might, in fact, be very important?
The comments were very helpful. Some observations echoed what I had been thinking. Other comments touched upon themes and gaps that I had not thought about.
What seems to be missing in public prayer? (from yesterday’s comments)
- Praying for our leaders (authorities, rulers, etc).
- Praying for other churches.
- Praying for the poor and hurting in the community.
- Thanking God for what he has done.
- Praying for our enemies.
- Inviting God to deepen and have his way in our communities.
- Praying for widows, orphans, and those who are here and are not citizens of this country.
- Praying for true kingdom business.
- Praying for social justice.
- Praying for unity.
- Praying for personal needs (that goes a step beyond the sickness of our relatives).
What do we pray for publicly? (also from yesterday’s comments)
- We pray for sick people.
- We pray that God will forgive our sins.
- We ask that God will bless us.
- We pray that God will approve and bless our plans and programs.
- We pray (in some churches) for the needs of the members (praying for a job for "Bob").
Do these two lists represent most or all churches? I don’t know. I do suspect, however, that many of us identify with a number of these on each list. I suspect many of us can identify with some of the gaps as well as some of the recurring themes. Your comments were helpful to me personally as I thought about some of the gaps in my own prayer life. (Several people, by the way, noted the helpfulness of prayer books. I have found Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours to be particularly helpful.)
If someone who was completely unfamiliar with us ("us" being whatever church you are connected with) were to slip in and begin listening to what is prayed week after week, what might they conclude? What might they conclude as they listen to us pray in special prayer gatherings each week? Maybe Randy Harris (as per Matt Dabbs) is correct. Maybe they would conclude that we believe that our physical health is the most important thing in the Christian life.
Should we pray for the sick? Absolutely. What I am trying to do is to simply think about what we are praying about. I also want to think about what these prayers might say about our priorities and what seems to be important to us.
I want to make sure that I am praying for concerns that are front and center to Jesus. I want to pray that I and others in our church will love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. I think that people ought to hear us pray that we will love our neighbor as ourselves. This love toward God and neighbor seems to be very important to Jesus. This is just a beginning…
Please hear this. I do not want to distance myself from the church and then ask, "What are THEY praying?" I am one of them. I am a part of this community of believers. At the same time, I want to ask an important question about our church experience. Without asking such questions, we are going to mindlessly move along with little or no reflection upon our practice.
Suppose, that our prayers began to reflect the priorities of Jesus. What would we be praying for or about each week? What would characterize our public prayers? Or, if we were listening to one another pray aloud and if each one of us prayed in such a way as to reflect what was important to Jesus, what would we hear?