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March 8, 2010

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  • Prayer Rituals?

Prayer Rituals?

READER QUESTION:
I was reading some of the articles on prayer and had a few questions regarding the subject because there are some things i do not understand. I was wondering if praying before a meal for the Lord to bless is wrong because it could fall into the 'vain repetitions' category? Also, prayer in regards to protection, for example, i have a sister that lives in another country, would it be wrong for me to ask God to protect her as she takes the subway to and back from work? Finally, is it a bad thing to have midweek bible studies where there are also people splitting off to go pray? These were just a few questions i had that i hope you can clarify for me. Once again, thank you for your help.

VW ANSWER:
Certainly, there is nothing 'wrong' with pre-meal prayer. Jesus (Mt15:36) and Paul (Ac27:35) did.... to "give thanks" in public. To ask for protection? Does not God already promise protection? (Lk10:19) To have prayer meetings...the ones meeting to pray for Peter are not recorded as doing 'wrong' in holding such a meeting (Ac12:5); but was their prayer "asking in faith"? When Peter shows up at the door, they didn't believe Rhoda, that it was him. Peter was released from prison -despite- their prayer meeting, because it was God's will and purpose. The reason Daniel was thrown to the lions was because he was praying three times a day, and from ch9 we know his prayer was heard, because Gabriel was sent to speak with him.

Do we pray by 'rote'? Many religions have prayer -books-. From what I read, it seems that Judaism also has their prayer books. Where did God command it? They put a little bit of Scripture and hide it in a little box next to their door. They strap little boxes to their foreheads with little Scriptures and prayers. Is that what God intended?

    "And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be IN YOUR HEART. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (De6:6-9)
When I was growing up, and I would also see it in other "christian" homes, we had little plaques with bits of Scripture. Some put things on their fridges with magnetic stick-ups. Things that are in 'plain sight' everywhere you turn, easy to see and be reminded. What is the objective? That God's Word is "IN YOUR HEART". And what is the teaching to the children? That God's Word might be IN THEIR HEARTS, too.

How does having little bits of paper or parchment HIDDEN AWAY IN A BOX do that? God's Word is not a 'magic charm' or amulet! That is no different from Babylon who uses -beads-. Flip a bead down the string... there, that's another "Hail Mary" just recited, even though they didn't actually recite the words in their minds/hearts. But you see, the more beads they can flip down the string, that's more "prayers" piled up before... WHOM? Certainly not God! When I was a kid, about high school age, my dad found this radio station one Sunday afternoon that was broadcasting nothing but "Hail Marys" and "Our Fathers", over and over and over. One person would recite, then another person... the same words over and over. In Japan Buddhists, as I also saw on a TV documentary, they would stand under this stream of a waterfall, reciting as fast as their mouths could utter the words, over and over, some little phrase. (The one my dad would tell Americans in churches on furlough about was "namu-amidabutsu" or "I am depending on amida Buddha")

Did Judaism of Jesus' day have prayer books? They certainly had the little boxes... their "phylacteries" (Mt23:5) which Jesus condemned. If Jesus condemned it, He certainly didn't participate in it, did He. If the disciples asked Jesus 'how to' pray, "as John also taught his disciples" (Lk11:1), is it not obvious that both Jesus and John did not pray in the same way as was the tradition of Judaism. All the little certain prescribed recitations at certain times of day, and for certain occasions. If the disciples asked 'how to', might it also be the case that Jesus did not lead them regularly in "prayer meetings"? If He had been doing so, would they not have -learned- by 'osmosis' from the experience? (Like they did in the "breaking of bread"? Lk24:35)

To take the most used/abused one, the so-called "table grace": "God is gracious, God is good, now we thank Him for this food". Look at the words; that prayer is a -lie-. They are reciting words in the 3rd person, speaking -about- God; of God as "Him". Not -to- God. What about the recitation taught to children at bed-time: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." Again, spoken -of- God in the 3rd person. Not really praying -to- God, but engaged IN PRAYER, because "I'm praying"...watch me pray. And it's really no different than the "Hail Mary" where "mary" is called upon to 'pray' for the soul at the "hour of our death". Adults might formulate words alleging to be -to- God: "We thank -You- for this food, and bless the hands that have prepared it" (or variations of this...each person memorizing their own version of it and repeating it time after time) But hey!!! We did our christian "duty", which distinguishes us as being spiritual. Others seeing us know that we are right-proper "good christians". We bowed our heads and did the ritual! We are not like those heathen who don't even "pray" before eating!

Where, in Scripture, did God -command- the "table grace" ritual? What about the "now I lay me down"? The "Hail Mary"? That's not even a prayer, but a historical quote of the angelic greeting (those parts found in Luke ch1). The "Our Father"? When they repeatedly recite that, they directly DISOBEY the exhortation Jesus gave ON THE OCCASION He said those words. He said, "do -NOT- babble vain repetitions as the heathen do" (Mt6:7) And what else?

    "Therefore do not be like them. FOR YOUR FATHER KNOWS THE THINGS YOU HAVE NEED OF BEFORE YOU ASK HIM." (vs8)
Wherein is our thanksgiving to God? The -spoken- words, or the heart?
    "Be thankful unto Him and bless His name" (Ps100:4)
    "...and be thankful" (Col3:15)
Being "thankful" is a -state- or -condition-; not a poem or liturgy to recite. "thankful" is an adjective (description), not a verb (action).

If we did not pray for protection, would God suddenly withdraw His promise?

If God has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" ... what is a prayer asking, "O God, please don't forsake me" ? Rather than displaying faith, is such a 'prayer' not actually a show of 'doubt' in God's Word? Why are we -asking- for something God has already promised, and is ours? Like the child, riding around on his bike his dad gave him for his birthday, calling out: Hey Dad! Could I please have a bike? when... he -has- a bike, and is -riding- it...he doesn't need to ask.

While these thoughts were still swirling around, I was clicking on some links to websites I hadn't visited in a couple years, and at "Golden Report" in an article was this sentence: "Pray as we may, God's prophetic Word will come to pass regardless of human events..." Pray as we may..?? Why would somebody claiming to be "christian" pray -contrary- to God's Word like that? Incredible! Jesus taught that God's will be "on earth as it is in Heaven". I am continually amazed at these preachers who castigate God's Children who see Judgment coming, as God promised it would come, in His Word, and condemn them for not rising up against the tide to 'change' it and 'stop' it, so that God's judgment might NOT come. No amount of our wishful "praying" will change God's Word! Wishing for it NOT to come won't stop it. Instead, I often find myself muttering: Could we please get 'on' with it, and get it 'over with', so the abuses of this sinful world can be "done with", and we be on the other side in God's Kingdom of peace and rest! Peace and Rest ("Your Kingdom come") won't come until Judgment has first been meted out. That is God's Word! If we pray "Your kingdom come"; then by definition, if we believe the prophecies of God's Word, we are also praying -for- JUDGMENT. Jesus says, "Surely I am coming quickly" (Re22:20) And the context, closing the book of Revelation, is Judgment; that's what the book is about. John prays, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus"... the New Heavens and Earth, -AND- the judgments which come ahead of it. Can't have the new, without the old be judged and gotten rid of. The new cannot coexist with the old; the two are mutually incompatible.

Aah, but... that doesn't agree with "unity in diversity", does it!

As I was listening to a recording of Robert Shaw and the Atlanta musicians a week ago, doing classical 'religious' music; the recording includes the "Holy City" (tenor solo, choir and orchestra) which contains the words, "And all who would might enter, and no one was denied..." That is not Scriptural. The Bible says,

    "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and prostitutes and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and produces a lie." (Re22:14-15)

    "But THERE SHALL BY NO MEANS ENTER IT anything that defiles, or produces an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lambís Book of Life." (Rev21:27)

If the various writings at the website on "prayer" could be encapsulated, would they not boil down to explaining the difference between -lived- 'prayer' vs what is most commonly seen, that people refer to as, the "power" of prayer. You know, that famous expression: "Prayer Changes things" As Jesus said, about people thinking they will be heard for their "many words". (Mt6:7) If I utter -words- often enough and strongly enough, the desired -outcome- will happen. Strain and grunt with groanings, and it will happen. Oprah teaches that kind of 'prayer', too. But the power is not in 'us'. We are not Jesus Christ, who is also known as "the Word". (Jn1:1) Many of the things Jesus did He prefaced with "I -say- to you". Jesus is the One whose words have power...not us. We do not -effect- anything by speaking words. We also do not have such 'power'. It is -God's- power "-toward- us". (Eph1:19) We do not have the power 'within'...which is what the doctrines of Babylon teach. We are not 'little-gods'. We are not "christ". Only God can -effect- anything.

I suspect today's church views "prayer" the way it does because it came from the Reformation of Protestantism....which, in reality, is the other side of the Babylonian 'coin'. It's the same coin....just, two sides. And Babylon and the pagan religions all believe in multipying words in the hopes their words will be heard. They presume that their devotion to meditation and recitation of words puts them in some special holy (feelings) halo-covered place.

But what does Jacob say...?

    Ja1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
It is -action- and -separation- from sin. What would a hungry widow and kids prefer, the promise of some 'words' said over them....or a hot casserole brought to the door?

Certainly, we are 'thankful' to God for His sustenance. If we are 'alone', does God need to -see- us bowing our heads to thank Him? Does He not know our hearts? Now if several people are together, is not a joint 'prayer' a good way to express a unified 'thanks' to God....but is such an activity not more for the benefit of those doing so...rather than God? Does God not know our hearts. If we are thankful, is it just for the -meal-? Or might it also be when we are particularly tired, wanting to pull into traffic, and just as we come to the street, the traffic is totally clear for several blocks...so we can enter the street with confidence? Sometimes when that happens for me, I just utter, "Thank you!" I don't get all-holy with: "Dear Heavenly Father, O Lord, I thank Thee that Thou didst clear the traffic...in Jesus' name, Amen" (in kj-eze...because kj-eze, as everyone knows, is more 'spiritual' than regular English) God knows my thankfulness. On the other hand, I never put on a public display of loooong pious expression at a restaurant, before the heathen.

There is this certain Chinese buffet restaurant I go to regularly, and about a year ago this group of people came in and filled up a complete table, perhaps Korean?, and the 'leader' engaged in a long (nearly 5-minute, it seemed) 'sermon' (in Korean?) while they all had their heads bowed. And of course the patrons and servers observed this display, going on-and-on-and-on, in wonderment; the servers, needing to communicate with them about their choice of drinks, at an obvious 'loss' as to what to do. Wish I could have understood what he was saying...I could hear him clear across the room. Such a "prayer", I don't know what benefit it was for those people. It was certainly of no benefit to anybody forced to watch/hear it. And I really doubt that God was 'edified' by it. On the other hand, at that same restaurant, there used to be a person (perhaps its former owner? I haven't seen her since the place changed ownership and names) who would go around visiting various patrons, came around to my table in conversation one day and said to me, "You're a Christian aren't you." She was Buddhist. I have never made any displays before anybody when I am there to 'advertise' my Faith in God.

And then there's that other thing one sees periodically, where the leader raises their voice several decibels to make sure the entire restaurant can hear them, even above the in-house music system and clatter of dishes, and pontificate words. As Jesus said, "to be seen by men"... They -have- their reward...they were seen by men. Did God hear them? If there is iniquity, God turns a deaf ear.

    Ps 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.
    Isa 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, that He will not hear.
But....
    Mic 6:8 O man, He has declared to you what is good. And what does Jehovah require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Isn't that the best expression of what -lived- "prayer" is...? Prayer is the 'communion' between Husand (Christ) and wife (Church).... not the -preaching- of evanglism. Just as a couple speak to each other in quieter tones when in public, and do not 'yell' at each other so everybody in the super market can hear their business; so too, prayer is not for 'display' to the heathen.... or as a usurpation of self-presumed 'authority' of one [c]hristian over another...to prove to the other that their view (in the disagreement/argument they were just having) was "just", because they just "prayed" about it...and how can the other person now any longer disagree, when it's been "prayed" about.

But I fear that -most- of what is called "prayer" today is for 'display'...yes, and also -controlling- 'power' over fellow-[b]elievers

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