Performance Prayers No More…

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“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” ~ Matthew 6:5

We’ve all witnessed them. They are in every church, regardless of the church’s level of faithfulness. These prayers are at the Wednesday night prayer meeting, Sunday morning service, church staff meeting, Christian conference and home group gathering. And its purpose is to rile a crowd. Its aim is not to commune publicly with a living God, but to inspire a group to a certain action.

Whether its said while the band begins to play a rousing rendition of Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord, or a lone piano playing something a little more pious like Before The Throne Of God Above, or its said to complete silence and a few amen’s, it is meant – to be blunt – to manipulate and impress.

These kinds of prayers are said not to God, but to people.

They are usually wordy and long. They start off quiet but passionate, then arch in bravado and intensity, with a little yelling and maybe some arm gestures. These prayers desire to teach its hearers something believed to be important, so they will leave invigorated with purpose.

But performance prayers are not prayers.

“Let the Lord alone be the object of your prayers, beware of having an eye to the auditors; beware of becoming rhetorical to please the listeners. Prayers must not be transformed into “an oblique sermon.” It is little short of blasphemy to make devotion an occasion for display...Remember the people in your prayers, but do not mold your supplications to win their esteem: look up, look with both eyes.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Now let me switch the tone a minute and express that I am well aware that praying in public is no easy task. Some say it is a matter of maturity that will make you able to do it. However it might be better said that its a matter of vulnerability that makes you able. Even the greenest and most uneducated Christian can commune with the Lord in the presence of others with a genuine heart. As long as they remain humble and have both eyes on Christ.

I remember when my grandpa used to pray. It felt like he was just picking up where he left off with God. Like he had been chatting with God all day, and now we were glimpsing in on their relationship. He didn’t perform. He just talked. Humbly and with love. And if none of us were there, it would have sounded the exact same.

I long to have that kind of rapport with Christ. And I pray that the performance prayers of our time would get left behind in history. However I know that is impossible as it is an age old problem.

But I hope we will learn to be truthful and vulnerable with God and aim to make much of Him and less of ourselves both alone and in public.

Less of our own glory and more of His.

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About hisgracemygrowth

I am a wife and full-time mom of a boy and girl who are 13 months a part. I am a Christ-following woman who is striving to honor God in all my endeavours! I stumble often....but His Grace is sufficient!
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3 Responses to Performance Prayers No More…

  1. Pingback: Performance Prayers No More

  2. James says:

    This is good and well for speaking of your own heart. Be careful not to make Spurgeon a rule of faith, especially one by which you proceed to measure others.

    It is possible concurrently to have multiple right and biblical motives for prayer. Jesus did. Jn 11:42.

    Scripture even implies that one of the purposes of His praying was as a model for us. Luke 11:1.

    And the specific prayer that He taught His disciples is both corporate in its form of address and intentionally “riling up” (to use your language) in its content.

    It is possible to commune with God, sincerely to address Him, and to have many of the purposes and types of address that your article criticizes. As with many things, this is an area where you cannot see the necessary object to come to a proper conclusion: the heart of the one praying.

    So, thanks for the caution, but be cautious yourself. Wishing things out of existence, asserting that God is not being sincerely addressed, etc.–it comes off as a bit more than warning your brothers and sisters that a wrong motive /might/ be behind a certain kind of praying.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. When Jesus both modeled and taught how we ought to pray, He did so certainly with godly motive. But given the fact that He is in fact Jesus makes Him exempt from what I am talking about here. Men and woman who are subject to sin are the ones needing this warning, which is what Jesus did in Matthew 6:8. Spurgeon only reiterated those warnings in his own words. And I disagree with you that Jesus ever intended his teaching on corporate prayer to ever “rile up” in the way that I mean the term. I do not think all public prayer is suspect, but I do think given Christ’s warning on the matter it is worth commenting on. You are right, ultimately Christ will judge the heart, which is a lot scarier then any of my judgements.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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