30 April 2010

Question of the Week:
Who’s to Pray, How to Pray

by Anne Lang Bundy

“Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing
God’s gift of Himself.”
~ Mother Theresa

I was raised Catholic and was wondering if it is okay for non-priests to lead public prayer? ~ @SeeJaneSell

Am I supposed to close my eyes when I pray? ~ @ChristineBlake

One cannot help but appreciate the reverence for prayer implied in these questions.

Christians often take for granted the privilege of prayer. We call prayer “just talking to God”—as if it was no more than that.

True, we are encouraged to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV). But we should remember that the only reason for such boldness is because our access was purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ.

The Most Holy Place of the Jerusalem temple was the place of God’s presence. It was closed off by a great curtain (or “veil”), reported by the historian Josephus to be four inches thick. The curtain was probably almost as high as the temple—about sixty feet.

When Jesus died on the cross, that veil was torn into two pieces, starting from the top. No human could have performed such a feat, which was clearly a miracle of God. Hebrews 10:19-22 explains that this showed God giving access to His presence through Jesus’ death.

Direct access to the holy throne of God is still a place for God’s anointed priests. But whether a congregation’s consecrated minister is called a priest, or another title such as bishop, elder, reverend, or pastor, the New Testament definition of a priest now includes all who belong to Jesus Christ, who are anointed with the Holy Spirit:

You also ... are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ... you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people ...
~ 1 Peter 2:5,9 (NKJV)

What about the prayers of non-Christians, who are not God’s priests?

Christians have direct access to God the Father because we are restored to Him through Jesus (Ephesians 2:18). But Acts 2:21 says, “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.” Before the time of Jesus, in the Old Testament, examples abound of God hearing the prayers of those who demonstrated faith and fear. In the New Testament, the prayer of Cornelius was heard because of he feared God and demonstrated faith, though he did not yet know of Jesus Christ.

What was most important about these people is that their hearts were humble before God, seeking His righteousness, understanding that they had no righteousness of their own merit. It is this posture of the heart, rather than position of eyes or knees which was most important to the Lord. Getting on our knees or closing our eyes is simply one way to express that humility.

Even the prayers of Christians can be hindered by such things as “vain repetitions,” failing to honor one's wife, and regarding sin in the heart. We all should be careful to follow leaders who prove themselves faithful to God and the Bible, so we are not led astray. Christians who lead others in practice of faith, including public prayer, should do so with godly fear and humility.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
~ 1 Peter 3:12 (NKJV)

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image: Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam," Sistine Chapel


  1. Amen, wonderful post.

  2. I'm so attracted to humility...I can't even explain. And sometimes those quiet moments with God are the most precious for me.
    ~ Wendy

  3. this may sound strange or perhaps even stupid, but i have a question in regard to prayer as well. from my understanding, the Holy Spirit is who prompts us to pray and intercedes for us when we can't or don't know how to pray. sometimes i find myself praying for others on the internet. ...also believe strongly in the laying on of hands. praying online it's "in agreement as touching one another." to me it's the same as laying on of hands. not long ago, i've begun praying as we for others because i believe the prayer is prompted by the Holy Spirit. i see it as being "we" because i join myself to the Holy Spirit. but also am hoping for others to add agreement either by prayer or an amen. but even if they don't, i still see it as "we." correct me if i'm wrong in my thinking...

  4. Denise ~ Thank you kindly, dear.

    Wendy ~ It's funny how some people find humilty weak and despicable, while the Spirit gives others an appreciation for humility that makes it the most attractive quality of all. The Bible indicates that the Lord finds it downright irresistible.

  5. Bud ~

    The Holy Spirit intercedes according to what we can't always articulate. He also speaks to us in a way to help our hearts be what they need to be—if we cooperate. But He doesn't change the message.

    As far as praying with others via online, I do it all the time, though it's the most difficult prayer for me. The majority of communication is in body language and tone of voice. Something like 7 percent of communication is words, so the internet loses a substantial amount of information. On top of that, we tend to use fewer words when we're typing than when we speak, so even more is lost.

    The Holy Spirit can make up for a substantial amount of that, because He can say the same thing to us and for us. I do value prayer in all its forms, whether personal, corporate or online. But when I join with others in prayer, online prayer isn't my first choice, because of what it lacks in one-on-one contact.

    Won't Heaven be great, when distance doesn't matter any more?

  6. YES! it will be great! ...and thank you, Anne.

  7. Interesting that Bud says the HS prompts us to pray. I know I've been prompted but most of the time I feel it's my own doing. He's def. given me food for thought.

    I prescribe to constant prayer. The Bible suggests praying without ceasing and I follow orders. ;)

  8. Thanks Anne, Prayer truly is a disposition of the heart. I can think of times I talked to God, even when I was knowingly out of His will. He has answered me, sometimes many years later, questions I have asked Him. I have felt His presence so profoundly during times of worship ... prayer is relationship with God.

  9. Thanks Anne..and Bud. I like prayer and modern communications (internet, cell phones etc.) in the same context. It makes prayer not such a foreign concept. If you can dial my number and reach my cell no matter where I'm at; how much more can prayer reach and all knowing, ever present, ever listening God?

  10. Great post ~ enjoyed. Have a blessed weekend.

  11. T ~ I chatter at the Lord a WHOLE lot, but I've yet to nail prayer without ceasing. As I grow, I know I do better the more I pray.

    Russell ~ I'm encouraged to be reminded that while the answers often take longer than we even remember we've prayed, the Lord will not forget or allow to fall to the ground a single one.

    Doug! Great to see you. Perhaps my favorite quote about prayer is something like: "The most powerful force on earth is the prayer of faith in the hands of love." ~ Doug Spurling.

    Patty ~ Thank you! :D A blessed weekend to you.