Talking To God Or To People?

Sunday, July 23, 2017
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Listen while you read: "Jesus Thou Joy Of Loving Hearts"1 (Lyrics)

I have come to the conclusion that some of us who lead in worship services or are asked to offer a public prayer at gatherings of some kind are at times caught up in the desire to be well spoken. We want to be assured that the people around us are able to hear us and are impressed with the way we pray, the words we use, and how good we sound.

We attended a church some time ago where it is the custom that one of the elders offers the pastoral prayer. Some of them bring a sheet of paper either with the prayer written out in full or else a card with some points to refer to and the names of people to be remembered in the prayer. That is my style as well. One time when we were there, the elder who prayed had no notes, and several people commented to me about what a great prayer he always offers, and someone mentioned how he prayed without having written anything down. I started to feel that my style was inferior, but then I remembered that to me, it almost appeared that he was talking to the people rather than to God.

This reminded me of a funeral that I once attended, where one the daughters of the deceased talked about her father. She mentioned a number of good things about him, including the fact that he always prayed at mealtime. One time, one of her aunts was visiting, and after the prayer, she told her brother, "I'm sure that it was a good prayer, but I did not understand a word of it." Her brother replied, "That's all right. I wasn't talking to you."

Jesus tells the parable of the two men who went to pray.

Luke 18:10-14 – Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess." And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (NKJV)

Jesus reminds us that we don't need long prayers; we don't need to impress those around us. It is good just to express our inner thoughts to God in simple prayer, whether privately or publicly.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, when we are struggling to find words to thank You for the good things in our lives and to bring You our concerns, we pray that Your Spirit will guide us, and that all we say will be for Your glory and not ours. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

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About the author:

Joel Jongkind <>
Meaford, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Amen Joel.

    Good thoughts Joel.

    Joel; I know exactly what you mean.
    I think the issue is, in church we are praying on behalf of the congregation and not on behalf of just ourselves. so that is why the notes.
    In my own prayers I often ask the Spirit for help and I always get it!
    Thanks, as always, for writing.

    I have always had a problem with extemporaneous prayer. It’s because I don’t think on my feet. If I don’t write it out beforehand after deciding what it is I want to bring to God, I inevitably make a hash of it. I too have to keep reminding myself to KISS (Keep It Simple,
    Stupid!). I’m sure God will forgive me if it isn’t perfect. After all, He knows what it is I want to say even before I do. I am merely reminding Him.

    Hi Joel,
    Just wanted to say how meaningful and appreciated your devotional was this morning. I feel when we are praying, we are talking to God who already understands what is on our heart and appreciates our seeking Him even if our words are simple.
    Thank you and Lord bless you for your contribution today.

    You make an interesting point Joel when you bring up the topic of reading a prayer or using notes. I can understand that if you have a list of names or issues to pray about. However that reminds me of a cheat sheet where we are speaking out a list our wishes and desires, i.e. giving our list to God not listening for His inspiration.
    Shortly after I came to Christ as a 15 year old I was attending a mainline church with my mother and, when I noticed the pastor reading his prayer, I gasped in astonishment to my mother, “He’s reading his prayer.” she was puzzled at this comment because that was how she thought one normally prayed. I thought prayers were led by the Holy Spirit and we simply listened for His guidance then spoke His words.
    I do not wish to criticize, but it is just an observation and something I never forgot because I still believe that.

    Amen Joel!
    Paul encouraged us to be always in an attitude of prayer-to pray without ceasing.
    Our short conversations with God as we go about our daily lives can be more meaningful
    than long drawn out prayers.
    Good devotional Joel.

    Thanks Joel for this reminder about to Whom our prayers are offered. Blessings.

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