Vol.XI No.I Pg.7
March 1974

You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Dear bro. Turner:

Should there be any difference in the wording of a private prayer and a prayer led publicly? HA


When Jesus condemned praying to be seen of men (Matt. 6:5) he used as contrast, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret—. But this intimate, private, direct prayer to God was not a prohibition of public prayer, properly done. Nor did He say that privacy necessarily eliminates hypocrisy or self-centeredness. Note the Pharisees prayer with himself— Lu. 18:10-f. There is much more to acceptable prayer than certain externals so often emphasized.

Private prayer may be repetitious without being vain (Matt. 6:7). Jesus prayed three times, saying the same words. (Matt. 26:44) In His earnestness his sweat was as it were great drops of blood, (Lu. 22:44). On a more joyous occasion Jesus rejoiced in spirit (Greek signifies exhulted) saying, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,—(Lu. 10:21). As would be expected, our private prayers are less formal, more moved by emotions, and may be made acceptable by virtue of Gods insight into our hearts (Rom. 8:26-27), even when we know not what we should pray for as we ought.

But public prayer must be understandable to those people who hear it. In 1 Cor. 14: Paul reproved those who overlooked the listener, saying, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? (vs. 16). When one leads in prayer in our public assemblings, he is not to forget all others. In effect, he is speaking for them; although only those who follow the prayer and mentally make the same petition, really pray to God.

It may shock some to realize that Jesus prayed to be heard of men in a sense. Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. (Jn. 11:41-42) And the early church quoted scripture in public prayer, saying Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth and the sea and all that in them is; Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage— etc. (Acts 4:24-30; see Psm. 2:1-3).

There is good reason to voice, in public prayer, some things understood and not consciously framed in private petition. In Christs Name is not a verbal formula — something which makes prayer acceptable by the saying. One need not utter in the name of Lord Jesus in order to do acceptable deeds. (Col. 3:17) But we should, with good reason, express in public prayer what we are doing. Likewise, our praise of God may take a form publicly which we would not necessarily express privately. Objectively note the wording of prayers cited above. Do you honestly see a formula there?

Finally, unless our prayer is the pure cry of a contrite heart, neither word nor posture can wend it to God.