Oct25WedOctober 25, 2017
The new obsession of our twin boys is counting. Frequently, we hear them saying, “eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, fuzzenteen, twentyteen…” As you can tell, the numbers break down a little after sixteen. We love hearing this because vocal repetition is one way in which they learn. They don’t always pronounce the numbers correctly. But, as we say the numbers with them, their confidence grows and so does their accurately. Although I’ll be sad when fuzzenteen leaves their numerical vocabulary!
Our confidence in praying happens in a similar way. The more that we pray, especially aloud, the more comfortable and confidence we grow in this spiritual discipline. Yet it can be very difficult to cross that threshold for a variety of reasons.
One reason is because praying aloud exposes our heart and thought process and we can very easily feel embarrassed by both. Years ago, an adult volunteer on my team admitted that he had never prayed aloud before for these reasons. He had been a Christian for years but never felt safe enough to press into the arena of corporate prayer. Yet, since our team had a strong sense of mutual trust, he was willing to give it a try. That moment was a large turning point in his prayer life.
Another reason why Christians struggle with corporate prayer (even with 2 or 3 people), is because Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 6 to “go into your room, and shut the door and [then] pray to your Father who is in secret” (Mt 6:6). This verse seems to imply that Jesus prefers private prayer. However, when Jesus taught he disciples to pray with the Lord’s prayer, he used plural language – “Our Father…give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us” (6:9a, 11-12a). Likewise in the Book of Acts and the Epistles, more is said about corporate prayer than about private prayer. Spiritually, both are interconnected.
Daniel Henderson, author of “Old Paths, New Power” which our Church Board read this spring, describes the Biblical tradition of praying in this way. He asks, “Which is more important for walking, your right leg or your left?” Of course, we need two healthy legs to walk…and enjoy walking. Likewise, we need to develop a healthy private prayer life (like Matthew 6) and a healthy corporate prayer life (like modeled in the rest of the New Testament). These two are interrelated, as least as far as the Bible is concerned. But it’s so much easier to keep our prayers to ourselves. Therefore, we do.
Several weeks ago, Lillian Teater shared about her experience in Tanzania. While there, her host family insisted that their American team take time to walk around the mission camp and pray together. For this ministry in Tanzania, corporate prayer was essential – for both the spiritual warfare in which Christians are called to engage but also for the spiritual lives of their mission guests. They firmly believed that, “our struggle is against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, healthy pray-ers were necessary!
And so, I challenge you, just as Lillian was challenged, to take some time this fall to strengthen both “legs” of your prayer life. Pray silently and pray aloud. Pray privately and pray with others whom you trust. As you do, your confidence will grow, but so will your burden for the Lord and for His Kingdom. This is something that we need! Don’t worry about sounding silly or stumbling over words. Your Heavenly Father doesn’t mind if you say, “fuzzenteen.” He is just pleased that you are willing to grow!