The Other Side

Prayer – Part Two

So, onward and upward we go. This month, I want to examine the example Jesus gave in the scripture on prayer. Here it is:
Matthew 6v7-13, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9"This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.11Give us today our daily bread. 12Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
That’s it. 52 focused, concise words that, when heeded and applied correctly based on the context in which they were delivered will have the desired affect Jesus meant for them to have. But what is often pondered is, did Jesus mean for his followers to only pray this very prayer? Is this the prayer he prayed in the garden just prior to his crucifixion? If we pray another prayer, will it go unheard by the Father in heaven? All very good questions, and all can be answered with one answer – No. Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray…” meaning this is to be the pattern, the motivation and the focus of our intentions. Here’s my proof:
Matthew 26v36-43:
 36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
42He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
43When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Wow! How peculiar. First, he went off by himself, alone. Then, Jesus didn’t pray for God to make him the head and not the foot; he didn’t pray for God to bless him to be victorious; nor did he pray to have angels come carry him away, or that Caesar would intervene, or Pontius Pilate would issue a reprieve, any of which would have prevented the crucifixion. He simply prayed that the Father’s will be done. And, he didn’t pray for two hours either, proving that one does not need to pray a book to be heard by God.
Today, dare I say that none of these are present in the prayers commonly heard in churches, religious gatherings, or on TV/Radio preaching shows. We hear prayers to the basketball and football gods, the new car gods, the credit god, the new clothes gods, the blessing god, the big, new house god, the good job god, the please-don’t-let-me-choke-on-this-chicken-bone god, the parking space god, the good-movie-seat-with-no-kids-behind-me-kicking-my-chair god… Christians have missed not only the big picture, their snap shots are even totally ill-framed and blurry. Praying that your team wins, in spite of being gracious enough to pray that no one gets hurt, is not what Jesus meant when he instructed us on how, why, and when to pray.
He also said to enter into your closet rather than to pray standing in the synagogues like the heathens. Yet this very same pathetic scene is played out everyday around the country by so-called “servants” of God in direct violation of Jesus’ instructions. This part he did not leave open to interpretation or subjectivity. Nowadays, we are taught that if we “hide” in our homes, refusing to be seen praying over our meals in public places then we are ashamed of Christ and he will be ashamed of us. Poppycock!! Praying in you private place is EXACTLY what Jesus said to do! Hello! That is why prayer in schools is one of the most anti-Christian things one could ever do. I would even go so far to say that even praying in a Christian school is also against His instructions. The whole idea is to avoid appearing pompous and arrogant. We are obsessed with showing our religious affiliation through public prayer. We have confused a public display of “Godliness” with being on God’s side, thereby making the inference that God is on our side, neither of which are accurate. I say that God is not impressed, and further, neither am I.
Where will you go, you Christians who cry persecution? Will you continue to feign injury by the godless heathens who oppose prayer in schools, court rooms, and other public places? You should be glad, for like Balaam riding his donkey, you are blinded by your own selfishness. It was the donkey who saved Balaam by turning aside not just once but three times because it saw the angel of God when Balaam didn’t. You should heed the warnings, get off your "ass" and open your eyes before it’s too late. Pray at home, in your closet, in private as Jesus said. Stop laying a guilt trip on the rest of society to make us feel that we owe it to you to tolerate the imposition of your religious practices on us in our public places.
See you next time.
Dan Hardman
Dan Hardman, author
Essays From Church - Vol One
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Dan Hardman

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