The Importance of Public Prayer

Lord-accepts-my-prayer-hands-christian-wallpaper_1920x1200One of Jesus’ most well-known teachings is His teaching on prayer. Even people, who know very little about the Bible or the Christian faith, are often familiar with the “Lord’s Prayer.” It is a prayer that should be memorized, but it is actually meant as a model to guide us as we pray. Jesus tells us that we should begin our prayers with praise and adoration. We are to pray that all people everywhere would “hallow,” or treat His name as holy.

In truly radical fashion, Jesus also tells us to pray that Satan’s kingdom would be destroyed. Furthermore, we are to pray that God’s kingdom of grace would rule in every heart and that His kingdom would come and fill the whole earth. “Your kingdom come.”

Then He gives guidance on how to pray for ourselves. We are to daily look to God as our Provider in the most basic needs of life. We are to recognize that we are sinful people and are to come to Him for forgiveness. Jesus also makes it clear that forgiven people are forgiving people. We are to forgive in the same way that we have been forgiven. Finally, Jesus says we are to pray and ask the Lord to help us in our temptations. “Deliver us from evil.”

Jesus introduced this amazing prayer by saying, “When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.” (Matthew 6:6) Our prayer is to be between God and us. We are not praying to impress other people. We are talking to our heavenly Father. So what about public prayer? Jesus chastised those who prayed in public for the sole purpose of impressing other people. Does that mean there is no place for public prayer? Newsweek Magazine recently tried to make that point in their December 2014 issue. In Kurt Eichenwald’s article, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s A Sin”, he used Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 as a pretext for saying that praying in public meetings was wrong. He says, “Jesus would have been horrified” at this practice.

So does the Bible have anything to say about this? Yes it does. In the book of Joshua, we read about how Joshua, the General of the Army, led the people in times of prayer. You mean it’s okay for a General to lead in public prayer?! Joshua did. In 1 Kings Chapter 8, we read about how King Solomon led the people in public prayer as the temple was dedicated to God. You mean it’s okay for a King to lead in public prayer?! Solomon did. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read how King Jehoshaphat also led the people in public prayer when they were being threatened by their enemies. You mean…

I know what you’re thinking. “But that’s in the Old Testament.” Yes it is. Let me remind you that the Old Testament is in the Bible. The Old Testament is just as inspired by God as the New Testament. It is just as authoritative as the words of Jesus. In fact, Jesus made it clear that every part of the Old Testament should be considered Holy Scripture. (Luke 24:44-45) He’s saying that we need to be whole Bible Christians.

Thankfully, we also have a history of public prayer in our nation. At the first Congress under the Constitution on September 25, 1789, a resolution was passed for a National Day of Prayer. The Journals of Congress record that:

“Mr. (Roger) Sherman justified the practice of thanksgiving on any signal event, not only as a laudable one in itself, but as warranted by precedents in Holy Writ: for instance, the solemn thanksgiving and rejoicing which took place in the time of Solomon after the building of the temple was a case in point. This example he thought worthy of imitation on the present occasion.”

It sounds like Roger Sherman was a whole Bible Christian. The resolution was passed unanimously. President Washington said it was right for the people of the United States to thank “the great Lord and Ruler of Nations.” He then said, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

Thursday, May 7th is the National Day of Prayer. The observance for Vandalia will take place in the form of a prayer breakfast from 7:15 to 8:30 am at “The Hangar” of First Baptist Church. You can RSVP at www.clcdayton.com. I invite you to come and join us in public prayer.