On the journey


Who are you praying to?

This week for my class Gospel and Global Media Culture, we are considering the topic of prayer in a digital world and other public media.  So… we were assigned to watch several YouTube videos of different prayers and even an episode of the popular TV series Glee (The Grilled Cheesus episode from Season 2).  Two of the prayers were given at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama; one by the Gene Robinson and the other by Rick Warren.  Another was a prayer for the Minnesota State congressional session by Bradlee Dean. And finally there was a prayer by Joe Nelms at a NASCAR event.

(Can anyone clarify for me if it is Pastor Nelm or Pastor Nelms?  Since so many people have no idea how to use apostrophes or possessive forms correctly, I can ‘t make heads or tails of this from a Google search. Grammar issues will have a separate blog in the not too distant future).

OK, so back to prayer. What I noticed with all of these prayers was that there were pieces that I liked in each of them and things that rankled me.  So…I had to wonder about that. Was there something similar to each of them that didn’t sit well with me?

Each of these prayers would be classified as Christian prayers. I will admit that none of them pray like I do but prayer comes in many forms and shapes and sizes and voices and I’m okay with that.  But what I noticed with all four of the prayers that I watched is that somewhere along the way I wondered, “Just who are they praying to”?

Minus the NASCAR prayer, at some point in time they ceased to be prayers and became public speeches. There are  lot of  kinds of prayers-thanksgiving & praise, confession and penitence, petitions of need and intercessions on behalf of others, plus many, many more. But prayers aren’t political platforms. They aren’t an opportunity to chastise others, especially those who behavior or beliefs are different from yours.

So, as a Christian leader, what does all of this mean for me? Part of ministering in this world today means engaging digital media cultures. Even if I never plan on praying at a big public event, it doesn’t mean that a prayer I offer somewhere doesn’t get video-taped and plastered on YouTube.  So here’s my plan:

1. Make it clear to all who are listening (whether in real-time or delay) that I, as a Christian, am praying to God (The Triune God)

2. Remember that I offer prayer on behalf of the whole people of God- Christian or not

3.  Prayer is a conversation with God. Public prayer is more than others overhearing- they are part of the prayer.

By Photo by and ©2004 Dustin M. Ramsey (Kralizec!) (My own photographic work.) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5">CC-BY-SA-2.5</a>], <a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUnder_the_ORU_Praying_Hands_sculpture.jpg”>via Wikimedia Commons</a>


6 Responses to Who are you praying to?

  1. Let’s remind ourselves often … Jesus didn’t say that our heavenly Father is going to reward us by answering our prayers. He DID promise us that when we pray unselfishly, and not for public show, our heavenly Father WILL reward us, just for praying period!

  2. When you begin to pray through Scripture, you will notice that the subject matter of your prayers won’t change very much. You will still find yourself praying for: your faith, your family, your work, your church, your community, and about the crisis and victories of your life and others; and that is a good thing.

  3. Jesus Praying – Where did He pray? One of the most mysterious and intriguing aspects of Jesus is the way He prayed. We only have snippets of His prayers written in the gospels. It’s noted that He sometimes prayed all night long. In the garden of Gethsemane, the Bible states that He sweated blood, so great was His conversation with His Father. His last authored prayer is the infamous ‘Not my will, but Yours’ be done.” These words of total submission to what abuse lay ahead are in sharp contrast to our human tendencies to avoid confrontation and death. It’s not recorded that Jesus ever prayed in public. He taught His followers not to use their spirituality to call attention to themselves as the priests of that time were known to do. He prayed in private. He specifically withdrew to a solitary place to avoid being distracted by others. We can follow His example by designating a quiet space for ourselves and schedule it at a time that we are less apt to be bothered by family, friends, and other distractions. Maintaining a focus on God is the main idea, so that we can hear Him speak to us in return. The Bible teaches us that we should be in an ‘attitude’ of prayer at all times. One of the coolest things about prayer is that we can pray while we are at work, in the home, or at our jobs. We can even pray while we are driving down the road. An attitude of prayer means that we are very much aware of the presence of God and that He is always listening. “A fervent effective prayer avails much” ( James 5:16 ) means that the most urgent smallest sentences are received with the same power as a prayer that is lengthy. “I believe” has the power to change your life.

  4. Establish some rules for the prayer time if you need to: no one may laugh at or mock a person who is praying. Any needs that are shared amongst the group should be kept confidential. If someone does not want to pray in a group setting don’t make an issue of it in front of the group. Talk to them privately and encourage them to participate. If there is someone who dominates the group prayer time, talk to them privately so you can encourage them to let the other members of the group participate. If someone prays inappropriate prayers address it publicly, interrupting them gently, and explaining to the group why the prayer is inappropriate.

  5. I don’t know how: that’s why you’re here. I don’t know my Bible well enough: continue in your studies, but don’t let it keep you from this area of worship and service to God. I don’t speak “thees” and “thous”: neither do I, but God hears my prayers anyway. I’m afraid to pray out loud and/or I’m just not articulate enough: Ah, I suspect that this is the real problem. Either we feel we’ll be judged by others in the group, and fall short of their expectations, or we feel inadequate to represent the rest of the group as we stand before God.

  6. The place where intercessory prayer must start is with you. It’s great to know that others may be stepping up for someone before God, but God wants you to put something of yourself on the line. Otherwise, it’s too cheap to be real. Your private devotions are not just for your own benefit. If God’s love is at work in you, you will care about others, and your love for them will lead you to take it to the ultimate Source of strength, healing, and love. Don’t be fearful; be persistent and stubborn. God doesn’t mind; God likes to see divine love at work in you. God honors your part in the relationship .