One of the aspects about modern Christian worship that makes me quite uncomfortable ( in addition to singing) is prayer. Heck, prayer is everywhere in public life. It is all over our television and even part of our political system. This ought not to be so. I am not against prayer, but our current practice is actually contrary to what Jesus taught:
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
While the verse specifically refers to an episode of Pharisees praying out in the streets, it was a direct command to his followers. We are to pray only in secret. Prayer is intimate alone time with God. Prayer is supposed to be as special and secret an act as sharing love with a spouse. So why all the public displays?
Namely it is for the same reason as the Pharisees prayed: attention. Public prayer is often a way of garnering attention from others and generally making a show of one’s piety. I am even against prayer in church services since it isn’t private time with God. Jesus would go off alone to pray in the morning (Mark 1:35). The only time He would pray “publicly” was when He would give thanks for meals, but even then He was with His closest friends and family members. The Lord’s Prayer wasn’t a prayer. Jesus was providing a template as to how to pray.
Whenever I sit in on someone leading a prayer I feel extremely uncomfortable; I feel like I walked in on something I shouldn’t have. Doesn’t matter if it is at the dinner table or during Sunday worship. It just feels wrong since Jesus explicitly tells us to prayer in secret. In many ways, not praying secretly is cheating on God. Prayer is a time when we need to withdraw from everything that distracts us and sit alone in God’s presence. It is a time we share our weaknesses, concerns, and problems. It isn’t a time to stand in front of others, nor to treat God like a vending machine. Prayer is something we shouldn’t say we are doing for someone. It is far too intimate to treat it as publicly as we do.
Unfortunately many people look at me oddly when I express this discomfort of mine. I only seek to be as Christlike as I can be. Prayer has no place outside of our most secret part of life.