A Different Perspective

Is There A Right Way To Pray?

The Muslims pray to Allah, five times daily, with their faces turned towards Mecca.  They recite traditional prayers that have been the same for centuries.  I am not so familiar with their Faith to talk about their other methods of worship, which I would imagine and hope includes informal prayer, where they simply call or cry out to God as they have need or desire.  Jews also say ritual prayers three times daily to Jehovah, with the aid of a prayer book.  From the Bible, it’s clear that they also make very personal prayers, which are not prescriptive.

Buddhist apparently have no deities, but worship enlightened beings, in particular, their founder, the first “Buddha”, Siddhartha Gautama, who they pray to.  They gather and prostrate and chant, ensuring their feet are turned away from his statue.  Their aim is to also become buddhas (enlightened ones).  Hindus worship many dieties and perform daily oblations during their prayers (puja).  They pray by chanting mantras and believe that through holiness, they will be reincarnated into higher beings.

Catholics do a lot of recitations in their formal prayers, and usually pray through Mary or a host of other “saints”, when they offer their petitions to God.  Protestants tend to add “the grace” to the end of their prayers, and some simply recite what is popularly termed “the Lord’s prayer”, beginning with “Our Father, who art in Heaven…

Born again believers engage in lots of informal and personal prayers, but also tend to follow a pattern, as they are taught in Church.  Their prayers usually start and end with “in Jesus’ name”.  You will likely hear this phrase repeated as they pray.  In some denominations, you might hear, “the blood of Jesus” repeated again and again.  And in their gatherings, you are likely to hear much incomprehensible speaking, alleged to be “speaking in tongues”.

But I’ve been wondering today, is there really a right way to pray to God?  Are all of these ways right or are they all wrong? It made me consider again Jesus’ teaching on prayer.  In Matthew 6, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and He actually told them, EXPLICITLY, what NOT to do.  Here’s what He had to say:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6: 5-15

Well, there may not be only one right way to pray, but from what Jesus taught, there are definitely wrong ways to pray, which we should no doubt avoid.  Because of this, I’ve always felt uncomfortable around people when they are making repetitive prayers or recitations.  I am also not really able to get lost in prayer when someone is telling me what I should say or pray about, and everyone around me is shouting their prayers loudly.  My prayers tend to be conversational, and I think that’s what Jesus meant for us to learn.  Check out my two-part series on CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD.

Some people wrongfully think Jesus’ template for prayer was meant to be for everyday recitation and is the only correct way to pray.  I don’t think He, who taught against vain repetitions, would give us something to recite without much thinking.  He was teaching them the main points to cover when they do pray.

He also taught us to ASK for what we need, and to continue to go back and ask until we receive.  So, saying the same thing in prayer at different times isn’t bad.  It’s when we try to prolong our prayers with much words, which are really just the same words, because we think someone is timing our prayers, and we are justified by the length of them or our many “eloquent” words.

According to Jesus’ prayer guide, we first need to acknowledge God as our Heavenly Father, or our Father, who resides in Heaven.  We need to give reverence to Him and hallow His name as sacred.  We also need to align ourselves with His will, so that we will be of the mind to bring His Kingdom to Earth.

When we have done these things, recognised His Person and humbled ourselves, submitted ourselves to His will and to HEARING from Him, Jesus said we should also ask that He meets our daily needs.  Jesus was clear on daily, because we are to have a daily dependence on God, just like the flowers and the birds, who do not have treasures stored on Earth.

And of course, we must come acknowledging our faults, with a readiness to change and to also forgive or make peace with others, as His Peacemakers.  We should also humbly ask for His help to live right and above temptation, being aware of our weakness and humanity, and of the existence of evil, which continually seeks contrary to the Father’s will.  And ultimately, we recognise that God alone holds all the power and is worthy of all the glory.  In this we trust and rest in, as we conclude our prayer time.

I am definitely not of the camp that believes in reciting the Lord’s prayer or any other prayer from the Bible.  They may lend us support in times of frailty, especially when the prayers connect with our hearts and needs and speak the words better than we feel we could.  But they shouldn’t replace our own voices and ability to utter new prayers and new words of worship to our Father, to whom we have a PERSONAL relationship.  These prayers, like David’s as recorded in the Psalms, lend well to songs, which are also a form of prayer, praise and worship.

I wrote in my post – IN MY NAME – how people have misunderstood what Jesus meant by anything you ask “in My name” will be granted to you.  I think this is another way in which Christians have turned God’s wisdom to empty words.  They feel that without the inclusion of “in Jesus’ name”, their prayers to the Father won’t be honoured, and so superstitiously and repetitively include this in their prayers – whether or not what they are requesting actually honours Jesus, which is really the point of “in My name”!

So, I was with a gathering today.  It wasn’t Church.  It was just a PTA meeting.  And they were praying at the end of the session.  I didn’t know when it became a vigil.

The person leading the prayer was telling us the points to pray for, and we were to pray on these points for what was probably three minutes each, but felt like ten minutes each.  I couldn’t open my mouth to pray along.  I had to ask myself what was wrong.

This was actually better than the average prayer meeting in Church, which I loathe, because they do all these things that Jesus said for us not to do.  And they “speak in tongues”, without regard for interpretations, contrary to Paul’s teaching on this important sign.  Because speaking in tongues is a sign and is for a purpose.  Paul’s teaching on this matter is found in 1 Corinthians 14, verses 1 to 28.

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

But it seems the only sign they desire is the ability to (that is, to show off), whether or not the ability is of God or of themselves.  And so, it doesn’t matter if it is incomprehensible and there is in fact no interpretation, because it is actually just gibberish they are speaking!  And thus the typical Pentecostal gathering and/or prayer meeting is categorised by men and women blabbering nonsense, with competing voices; without the edification of the Church nor conviction of the unbelieving.

However, tongues are not gibberish, but real languages that have interpretation, and someone is supposed to interpret when we speak tongues in public.  Or an unbeliever should be able to hear his/her tongue and understand; case in point, when the Apostles first spoke in tongues and the people could hear their languages being spoken.  And the ability to interpret is the SIGN OF THE POWER OF GOD.  When we pray or speak in tongues in private, we are edified because the Spirit relieves our heart of what to say when we lack the words and/or understanding.

I think many of us need to stop and pause and consider HOW we pray.  If we are being led by men or by the Spirit of God.  If we are praying to worship God or to appear righteous or as “spirit-filled”; read “one of them”, because the pressure to conform is real!

However, ONLY God should be glorified by our prayers.  Only God.  And if our prayers are vain, God isn’t fooled, nor is He glorified – and we have no reward from Him.  Only the praise of men, which is a sneer.

Photo credit: http://www.unsplash.com

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