Imagine a group of disciples gathered together for a special time of prayer. Before they pray, there’s a meal where large amounts of sodium, cholesterol, and fat-laden foods are consumed. Then the bulk of their praying is to the effect that God will keep everyone healthy. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for enjoying the occasional splurge in diet, but I couldn’t help but be struck by the incongruity of the situation.
If you stop and think about that scenario, the group prayed the ever popular consumer prayer. Through their meal (and I’m obviously stretching this a bit to make a point), they said, “Here’s the way we’re going to live.” Then with their prayer they said to God, “Here’s what we want You to do,” (i.e., protect us from the way we live). Even with the overstatement, I think there’s enough truth there to say some things.
Our corporate prayers are deeply entrenched in tradition. The predominant aspect of that tradition is our belief that how everyone is doing health-wise is pretty close to the most important thing we can pray about in the kingdom of God. It certainly gets the majority of our prayer time. A related truth would be that we pray this way because we believe it is God’s desire for everyone to be in good to perfect health (as if He can’t use us any other way). Consequently our public prayers sound like a mixture of medical reports and phone book listings.
These prayers bear little resemblance to the prayers in the NT (or the OT for that matter). If we are serious in our intentions to restore NT Christianity, we need to take a long, serious look at the difference between the way they prayed and the way we pray. If you look at the prayers in the Gospels, Acts, or any of the letters to the churches, you see they prayed kingdom prayers that had glorifying God in mind. This is in opposition to our consumer prayers that focus almost exclusively on getting what we want.
This is where leadership comes in. Jesus led His disciples in prayer. In one of their more lucid moments, they recognized they needed help in prayer and asked Him for it (Luke 11:1). In response, He gave them a model. He didn’t lead a prayer, He led them. There’s a crying need in our churches for people who can lead us in prayer. There are plenty who can lead a prayer, but not many who can lead us.
Lead us in prayer!