Vol.XX No.IX Pg.6
November 1983

Expression And Prayer

Robert F. Turner

Prayer is an essential and vital part of the worship of Christians together. Yet we must echo the cry of disciples of ancient year, "Lord, teach us to pray." We know how to recite a prayer, but that is a far cry from praying. Prayer is not a magical incantation; it is rather a godward expression. If we recognize the realm of that expression, we will gradually learn to pray.

Prayer is an expression of people. A man is asked to "lead" people in a prayer. "What do these people want to say to God?" To lead in prayer, he needs to know the people well enough to answer that question. How else can he express their mind? They can hardly say amen to what is not their prayer. Thus, it is hard for anyone to direct a crowd of strangers in prayer. Such prayer would begin with an assumption, proceed in generalities, and he deficient in expressing the people's urgent yearning.

This expression of people must be in understandable words. Prayer in a language foreign to the people is wrong (1 Cor. 14:14-). Such is not the people's expression to God, and they cannot say amen to such a prayer. Nor can they say amen to a prayer consisting of stilted and empty phrases. We must abandon our collection of pompous sayings and speak to God in the words of the people. Then all can pray together.

Prayer is an expression in truth. The new convert prays. His words tell his background and weakness. What did we expect? Shall we refuse to use him in our assemblies? Will we solve his problem by having him mimic some brethren? Shall we give him a list of proscribed and prescribed sayings? Never! Be patient. He cannot express what he does not know, nor say it any better than he understands it. He simply must be instructed in truth and nurtured in spirituality. As his mind is filled with Bible, his prayer will be filled with scriptural terms. Spiritual concepts will replace the carnal as he is transformed spiritually. Prayer cannot be achieved by parroting; it is an expression rooted in God's truth.

Prayer is also an expression of feeling. Do not be shocked! It is right for brethren to both feel and to express that feeling! Nehemiah wept and prayed to God (Neh. 1:4-). His prayer voiced the sob that choked his throat and the tear that clouded his eye. Brethren prayed with Paul and wept knowing they would "see his face no more" (Act. 20:38). James described the availing prayer as "fervent" (Jas. 5:16). Even when there are no words to express it, the "unutterable groaning" is heard by the one making intercession for the saints (Rom. 8:26, 27). Likewise, feelings of reverence and awe of God, of gratitude for our blessings, of joy for salvation in Christ, of anticipation of our reward and of sorrow for our sins are the wellspring from which flows real prayer. We must open our eyes to the things that stir such feelings and let them swell to fill us. Then our mouths will fill with words to express those feelings. May our prayers never be the voice of hypocrisy.

Joe Fitch, San Antonio, TX.