I grew up with the above mentioned song, and never quite understood it all. The chorus is penned:
Now let us have a little talk with Jesus,
Let us tell Him all about our troubles,
He will hear our faintest cries
And He will Answer by and by,
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning,
Then you'll know a little fire is burning,
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right.
How does one feel a little prayer wheel turning? I know the Buddhist have prayer wheels, but that can't be what I'm singing about, could it?
Any ways, just an introduction to this thought, Prayer in the church.
There is so much Scripture in regards to prayer in the New Testament. Without a doubt the early church was a praying church. The Lord Jesus taught His disciples (the first church) the importance of prayer. His lesson as found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 teach the following. We see that His disciples asked the Lord "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." Then we see our Lord's lesson:
1. Don't be as a hypocrite: (Matt. 6:5)
a. To love to stand up in the synagogue
b. To love to stand in public view in the streets
c. To love to be seen of men praying
2. Prayer should be in 'the closet.' (6:6)
b. Directed to the Father
c. Answered by the Father publicly
3. Not as Heathen (6:7)
a. Pray with vain repetition
b. Pray with much words
c. Pray as to 'inform God' of needs
4. Prayer Correctly (9-14)
a. To the Father (9)
b. Praise (9)
c. Submission (10)
d. State daily needs (11)
e. Forgiveness (12)
f. Protection from sin (13)
g. Dedication to God (13)
h. Claiming the Promises of God (14-15)
5. Prayer can be associated at times also with Fasting (16-18)
a. Again not as hypocrites, done in view of others
6. Prayer will be heard and answered by God (Luke 11:5-13)
7. Pray according to the will of God and in the interest of His will (Matt. 6:19-24)
8. Leave it in the hands of God and don't worry, but rather trust Him (6:25-34)
Throughout the Bible, prayer is mentioned as being done by individuals, in one accord, and as being requested by those in need. Always, in the New Testament, prayer was done individually or individually with a group. No where in Scripture does one 'lead in prayer' on behalf of a congregation.
Does someone leading in prayer in the church not contradict the above foundational teachings of our Lord concerning prayer? When 'Bro. So-in-So" leads us in prayer, is he not:
1. Standing up in public view and being seen of men when he prays
2. Not praying in secret
3. Often times somewhat repetitive in wording-(Dear Heavenly Father, bless_____, bless_________, speak to hearts, use the preacher, bless gift and giver, dismiss us in your care, bless this service, etc)
4. Not personal
The church prayed together in the New Testament. Acts 1:14 reads:
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
So did Mary and the women pray out loud or lead in prayer? Doubted, as that would be a direct contradiction to 1 Tim. 1:12 "But I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." When read in light of 1 Cor. 11 this is made clear that a woman could not have lead vocally in prayer.
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
So how was the church praying in Acts 1 or in Acts 12 when Peter was arrested and in prison? Could it be that they all just came together and each person spent time in prayer personally? When it was time to move on, I suppose the pastor or one could inform the congregation? They did in Acts 12 when Peter was at the door knocking. Either way, everyone in Scripture was to pray, and no one in Scripture ever 'led the church in prayer.'
Are there not Christians who struggle in praying in their personal life? If there was a time of prayer in the church like the examples above, would not new converts and mature saints learn to pray the only way we know we can learn to pray..by doing it? Do we not agree that when someone 'leads in prayer' a group in the congregation is listening to the 'prayer' instead of praying to our God? If every heart was in prayer, do we not believe the power of God would be most evident in lives?
"But we have to have someone open in prayer?" Do we?
"We have to have someone bless the offering?" Not if we don't pass the plate and everyone gives as they enter or leave.
"We have to have someone close in prayer?" Jesus, sang a hymn after He met with His disciples.
Imagine a service that we call "Prayer Meeting" actually be a prayer meeting. Imagine a service where we gathered at an appointed time, spent time in prayer as individuals, sang some hymns together, a man of God preached, and a hymn in dismissal. (and of course the people gave their offerings as they entered/left).
Fellowship would follow, and folks wouldn't be in such a hurry, for there was more time seeing how there wasn't specials, offertories, announcements, etc.
Something to think about. We have men lead in prayer, we have a man ask God's blessings on an offering, we have a man dismiss in prayer; but should we?