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Public Prayers and Private Responses

I was recently in the back of the church auditorium, coming in a moment after the service had started. Prayer was being offered as I approached the door. I stopped in respect and waited for the proper time to enter the sanctuary. I won’t judge the hearts of those that I was observing as I waited, but it made me wonder how most of us respond to prayer in a church service. May I ask you what I asked myself as I found my way to my seat?

What is public prayer to you?

Is it…

  • A precious time to petition God for the needs on your heart?
  • A time to check your lipstick in your purse mirror?
  • A moment to get your heart in tune with the Lord and pray for the hearts of those on your pew as well?
  • Another “ritual” in a church service?
  • A sweet blessing to thank and praise the Lord?
  • A chance to poke your neighbor and point at the funny situation in the pew in front of you?
  • A time to ask God to fill the pastor with His Spirit, and to save souls in the service today?

As I sat down in my seat following that prayer, I was asking myself the hard question,

“What do I do while prayer is being offered in a public setting?”

I had to admit that too often, I allow my mind to wander, thinking about things totally unrelated to what the pray-er is saying to God.

As a teacher of young children for many years, I’ve learned to keep my prayers in their presence very short, AND I also pray with my eyes half opened. Kids do all kinds of things while adults are pouring their hearts out to the Lord! We expect that because they’re children!  But when those little ones are in our presence in a service, are we setting a godly example before them? How should we be responding while someone is leading in prayer? Let me give a few suggestions, according to Scripture:

  1. Pray in one accord.  Acts 1:14, I Peter 3:8– This means to pray with one mind, one heart. We do that by thinking about the words being prayed. “Yes, Lord, we are asking for souls to be saved today.”  “Yes, Thank you, Father, for Your Word that is to be preached today; use it in a powerful way!” You get the idea. Pray with them, uniting your heart with theirs. That can’t happen when we’re fiddling with our coats, laughing with our neighbor, or thinking about what we’re having for lunch in an hour. We need to have one heart, one mind.
  2. Pray with rejoicing.   I Thess. 5:16, 17 – We get to pray for others. We are privileged  to  lift up other’s needs. With a grateful heart we should praise in thanksgiving and bow our heads to pray about needs and burdens. Rejoicing doesn’t happen if you don’t know what is being said to the Lord.
  3. Pray to glorify God. I Cor. 10:31 – Prayer is a part of our worship, and just as we sing for His glory, we must also participate in prayer in such a way that will bring Him glory. Perhaps it would be good for us to ask ourselves, “Is what I’m doing right now during prayer bringing God glory?”
  4. Pray, realizing how desperate you are for God. Psalm 63:1 We cannot do anything without Him. Oh, how foolish I am to think that I can be flippant and unattached during prayer. If we realize how much we need Him, we’ll take this time seriously.

We don’t want to pray as the hypocrite, and put on an air that isn’t real, but we must ask the Lord to help us to pray with the heart of one who loves and desires to be heard of Him. Can I challenge you as I’ve asked the Lord to do for me, to stay engaged during prayer times, to pray with one heart, with rejoicing, to glorify God because we’re desperate for Him?

“What a privilege to carry every thing to God in prayer!”

With love,

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5 thoughts on “Public Prayers and Private Responses

  1. I feel the same way when the Pastor begins his closing prayer before the invitation. It’s almost like he says, “now if everyone will please shuffle restlessly in their seats and pack up all their stuff while I pray….” If there’s a time that it’s important to be still and pray along with the Pastor, it’s then!

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