The Church View:
Public prayer is encouraged in all public venues and practiced at all church oriented functions.
The Bible View:
Prayer is private, public prayer is condemned, repeated prayer is vain and unnecessary.
From the Expert: Without reservation, the final authority on prayer is Jesus. This is his treatise on the merits of public, private, and scripted prayer:
· Matthew 6:5 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.
· Matthew 6: 6 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.
· Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
· Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
In four verses Jesus condemns the accepted prayer practices of almost all modern day Bible-based churches. Public prayer is hypocritical, narcissistic, and ineffective, and practiced or scripted prayer is vain and unnecessary. The single most often repeated and public prayer consists of the next five verses, and is known as the Lord’s Prayer.
A Prayer or a Lesson?
Did Jesus immediately contradict himself and utter a public prayer after condemning the practice? Not when one considers the first six words. “After this manner therefore pray ye…” This makes it clear that what follows is not a prayer, but a guide. Following the denouncement of complicated and repetitive prayer, this is an outline of a simple prayer and certainly not a spontaneous prayer.
· Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 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.
The Lesson Confirmed
In Luke this outline is clearly shown to be a lesson in how to pray and not a prayer and he actually stops praying before he gives the lesson:
· Luke 1:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
A disciple asks him to teach him how to pray and he gives this outline. The word “say”does not mean to repeat the words but to relay these thoughts. The word is lego, pronounced leg’-o, a primary verb; properly, to “lay” forth, i.e. (figuratively) relate (in words [usually of systematic or set discourse; whereas GSN2036 and GSN5346 generally refer to an individual expression or speech respectively; while GSN4483 is properly, to break silence merely, and GSN2980 means an extended or random harangue]); by implication, to mean:
Private Prayer In Practice
The practice of praying privately is demonstrated in biblical text:
· Matthew 14:23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
· Matthew 26:36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
· Mark 6:46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
· Mark 14:32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
· Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
· Luke 22:45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
· Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
· 1 Corinthians 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
Charity and Fasting
A quick study of both charitable giving and fasting will show that these practices are to be done in private as well:
· Matthew 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
· Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Most religious communities also practice these two publicly as well.