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CUSTOM IN PUBLIC PRAYER

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CUSTOM IN PUBLIC PRAYER

4 minuten leestijd

On occasion, I hear elders and ministers pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Is it not more edifying to pray directly to God the Father?

Most prayers in Scripture are, indeed, directed to God the Father and Creator, but inclusive and implicit in praying is that God as such represents all three Persons of the Trinity.

One exception is the fervent prayer of Stephen recorded in Acts 7 immediately prior to his martyrdom. There Stephen prays to the Lord Jesus. At times, our forefathers have taken the liberty to pray directly to the Spirit as well; witness, for example, the prayer-hymn, “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove.”

Nevertheless, we believe that it is most proper to regularly address our prayers to God, for else we may have a tendency to fall into the error of dividing the Trinity into Persons in our petitioning. It certainly is wrong (as is sometimes done) to first pray to God as Judge and be thinking only of the Father, and then to address ourselves directly to Jesus when pleading for God’s grace and mercy, for in such cases we are apt to convey the heretical impression that Jesus has a more loving heart than God the Father. On the other hand, though we may feel at times somewhat uncomfortable when we hear a number of direct petitions to the Son or the Spirit, we must also allow freedom of conscience in this respect and pray to be saved from a judgmental spirit.

Finally, we do well to remember also that all true prayer is the work of a Triune God. Ephesians 2:18 implies that it’s really to God the Father we pray, having access by and through Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

In a recent sermon, I heard it mentioned that we must pray for specific things and specific people. Why then are not names of people mentioned in public prayer? Wouldn’t it be more edifying to mention a name instead of playing, reverently speaking, a “guessing game?”

Your question is one that has frequently surfaced in our congregations. As far as I know, the bulk of our congregations have largely removed this problem through either announcing the names of persons that will be prayed for directly prior to prayer itself or by way of bulletin announcements. Generally, most consistories feel that one of these two methods or a combination of both is sufficient in resolving any element of “guessing.”

As far as mentioning specific names in prayer is concerned, this also entails problems — particularly for larger congregations where it is not unusual to have six or seven members in the hospital simultaneously. While the members of a church ought to be commended to pray for individual persons in private, public prayer can become repetitious, lengthy, and unedifying if each member is prayed for individually.

Having said this, however, it ought to be stressed as well that there is no express command in Scripture forbidding this practice. In our circles, it has been customary to avoid mentioning names in public prayer for the above-mentioned reasons, though there are cases when this would be more appropriate in my opinion — for example, in dealing with children who would have difficulty comprehending who was being prayed for (e.g., small children in the classroom, or retarded children), or in the intimacy of family worship. In these cases, the lack of mentioning names has largely become a matter of custom. Even the Holy Spirit used specific names in answering the prayers of the Antiochan church: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

The deeper issue your question addresses by way of implication, however, is a much more vital one. Both in public and private we are all too prone to resort to generalities or cuches in petitioning. In fact, our prayers can become so general at times that we would hardly recognize God’s answer to them were such an answer forthcoming. I believe a sign of a close walk with God by grace is frequently evidenced in an increasing degree of specific petitioning for both large and small matters. May the Spirit grant us all to pray as if we really believed Him to be a prayer-giving, prayer-hearing, prayer-answering covenant God. Then our prayers will automatically become more concrete. That is, then we would more frequently “pray in our prayers,” as the alternative reading of James 5:17 expresses it.

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 juli 1985

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

CUSTOM IN PUBLIC PRAYER

Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 juli 1985

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

PDF Bekijken