The Attitude Of Prayer
It is indeed in the assembly of the saints that gladness and rejoicing should fill the heart. It is here of all places that we are permitted to draw near to Him who is the source of every pure and blissful emotion. In His presence there should be an attitude of prayer and gratitude.
When the patriarch arose from his dreamy slumbers in the field of Luz, he exclaimed, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!" How many of us have entered into the house of God for worship somewhat unaware of the fact the Lord was present? How fitting then is the desire to pour out out hearts in praise and worship to Him. We are praying in both heart and mouth that our anxious cares be hushed and that we might draw close to Him. Let the sorrows of the mind be banished from this place, for the Being in whose presence we appear is the God of comfort and consolation. It is in Him that our hope rests. We are here to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
To Him we bring no bleeding victim from the flock, and we present no ineffectual oblations upon a blazing altar, but we offer the incense of praise, the grateful homage of the affections of the heart, the deep devotion of the soul, the living sacrifice of the body, acceptable through the precious blood of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is through this gift that we are emancipated from the bondage of fear and sorrow. We have come now to believe that all things do really "work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose".
With what heart-felt assurance, then, we should make His sheltering wings our refuge! With what reverential joy we approach the sacred chambers of worship as we pour out our hearts to the Father of light in whom is no darkness.
Then what about us as we gather around the Lord's table to show forth His death 'til He comes again? Think of how our hearts should beat in one accord of gratitude as we break that bread and our unworthy lips touch that cup. We do not deserve all that God has given through His grace. The Holy Spirit has quickened us to a deeper level of prayerfulness. We have so much for which to be thankful. It is here we prayerfully sing our praises; we study His sacred word in search for answers of assurance; we tune our hearts to the paying of our vows with thankfulness as we pray for the offering and for those in charge of spending it. The preacher, the elders, deacons, teachers, the widows, the lonely, and those who are hurting, all should be on our prayer list.
Prayer is the spontaneous utterance of every grateful heart. It flows from a sense of our dependence on God for blessings internal as well as external. The call to worship on the Lord's Day should ring loud and clear in the ears of everyone of us. The very thought of refusing to worship as He has taught us is a blatant sin for which punishment is reserved. "You mean to tell me I have to go to church every Sunday?" I am telling you that you do not have to go to church at all; ever! It is not a matter of having to; it is a matter of the love of Christ constraining us. It is a choice we make because He first loved us. I would be ashamed to be so ungrateful as to not care what happened at His church the day you turn over and go back to sleep. Your vote to close the doors that day is recorded in heaven. What if all the members had done what you chose to do? There would have been no service.
The excuses some use will not work. You may have a great personality by try that smile on Jesus at judgment. It is a strange thing that some seem to think that, because the Lord has blessed them in this life with money, health, and other things, they can somehow slip through the gate into heaven. There will be no slipping through anything. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Others use the reasoning that they have served their time and no longer are expected to be faithful to God, but there is no leave of absence in the Kingdom of the Lord.
I would gladly share my faith with another, but you can't get by in this life on another man's oil. You either have your own or you are not ready for the Lord to come. You aren't ready for the day of death either. Heaven is for the faithful, but only for the faithful, and "few there be that find it". The truth of the business is that most of the people of the world are on their way to hell. Broad is the way, and many there be that find it.
You won't bargain you way through, either. God has reserved a place for the saved because they were willing to obey His will. The rest are lost, and the devil has a grin on his face knowing full well that someday the lost will reward him for his effort. You can laugh it off now, but then it won't be funny. In fact, the Bible says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
All of this makes it clear that there is a lot to be praying about; and, although as Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, "Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God, but only for those who see take off their shoes". I thank God every day that my eyes have been opened and that, having eyes, I can see. Having ears is a real blessing, but only if you are willing to hear. The man who refuses to read is no better off than the man who cannot read.
We never fully comprehend all there is for us in the spiritual life, but the more we learn the more we can say as David, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness: according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me". (Psalms 51:10,11)
The attitude of prayer may be affected by the often asked questions: "For what shall we pray?" and "How shall we pray?" One often says "I can't lead a prayer because I don't know how". I am convinced the prayer you use at home in the secret of your own heart will be good enough, and if you never pray at home you should; and if you will start, it will help you learn to grow in this avenue of worship.
The greatest challenge for your learning to pray is found in Matt. 7:7-11. "Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. For what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto you children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him."
I believe that the only effective prayers prayed by any of us are those prayed with the right attitude. If we are going about this for the wrong reason or in doubt, the vain words we utter fail to reach the God to whom we are praying. I cordially commend any young man who, through study and experience, determines in his own heart to grow in this avenue of leadership. I would advise him to get some good books like the "Prayers of Peter Marshall" and study these for expansion beyond the rut of tradition.
Once in years gone by, I was honored to work with Brother E.W. McMillan. One Sunday morning he walked to the mike to lead the prayer for the Lord's supper, and with a screaming voice he yelled, "My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?" And then he went on to say "These are the words that ring out in our ears as we approach this supper to show forth His death until He comes again." Later, some ten years later, a lady who I baptized told me that she was present when he did that, and that nothing had influenced her life toward becoming a Christian like that had, and that every time we took communion she thought of the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
Isn't that the purpose of the Lord's supper? I was sorry my sermons hadn't touched her in that way, but the point it - we never know, when leading a public prayer, not only what God will do with it, but what the end result might be on the heart of another. The right of petition to the throne of the universe, in the name and through the mediation and intercession of our glorified High Priest, is indeed, not merely one of the privileges of every citizen of Christ's kingdom, but it is also the paramount honor and privilege of every human being who believes in the divine person, office, and dignity of Emanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone we can, with confidence, expect an answer to our petitions.