Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
Sometimes we make requests. One of the most common requests I am familiar with is for time off. This is usually in the form of vacation time or a sick day. Vacation time can be worked with to plan ahead and ensure that a given department will have sufficient manpower while somebody is away. No problem. Sick time is a bit of a headache as you can never plan ahead for it, and sometimes a department will be shorthanded and it takes a bit of work to make up the slack. However, it can be done.
There are other request as well, however, these are more problematic. Some of these can include transfer to another department or an extended lunch. Still others might include not having to handle a certain type of freight, or for exemption from a particular task. These requests create more of a burden than is ever necessary. Let’s face, if your religion forbids touching pork, stay out of shipping. I can assure you that I see a lot of pork come through the warehouse I work in.
Requests for extended breaks are not the worst of problems. If there is a legitimate reason for it, an extended lunch may be feasible. However, this can also be abused if one is not careful. In truth, this is not an uncommon thing. I have seen many who take extended lunch breaks, usually without prior consent, just because they feel like doing so. I have also seen situations in which people just don’t show up for work, and don’t even bother calling in, yet get angry if they get written up for not coming to work.
Where am I going with this? I am going back to Thursday, May 7, 2015. Huh? Wasn’t that a few days ago? Yes. It was the “National Day of Prayer”. If you can’t guess, I’m not a big fan of this. However, before we continue, let me say something else. I used to be a fan of “Promise Keepers”. I even attended a rally at the Tacoma Dome once. Sadly, I eventually came to realize it was not quite what it claimed it was. It was really just a decision theology based men’s Bible study movement. It may have some good point and good intentions, but it really didn’t have much to say about being men of faith. Rather saddening.
Now then, regarding this past Thursday? Ok. I don’t expect to have many who are going to like what I have to say. I don’t care. I would rather be hated for telling the truth than be loved for living a lie. To that end, I feel that the “National Day of Prayer” is a fully misguided, gaudy, and egocentric spectacle that does little to demonstration what the Christian faith is about.
Wait! What? Gaudy and egocentric? How so?
Let me ask: What does the Bible say about prayer? Even more specifically, what did Christ Jesus say about prayer?
No. I am not talking about the “Prayer of Jabez”. That prayer has a bit of an egocentric leaning to it. Also, it is almost completely in direct opposition to what Jesus taught with regards to prayer. I freely admit that Jabez may have had some sort of an issue going on, beyond just his birth situation and how he placed with his brothers, but there is no indication of what that was. All we know is he prayed and it was answered.
Jabez isn’t the first one who’s prayer is recorded in the Bible. Even further back, all the way back in Genesis, we have the servant of Abraham, who prayed for success in finding a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s heir. God heard this request, and granted it.
Request? What about the gaudy and egocentric? I’m getting to it.
In Matthew 6:5~6, we read “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. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Wait! Pray in secret? Is that what I’m really reading? Yes. Simply put, the Pharisees and Sadducees were well known for their long winded prayers on street corners and in the open markets. It may well be that this started out with good intentions. However, there is no way to be certain of that. Regardless of how it started, by the time that Christ Jesus walked the earth, much of the point of the prayers was no longer about devout faith as it was about personal appearance in the eyes of the people.
How does this relate to the “National Day of Prayer”? That shouldn’t be hard to see. Basically, what it has become is a spectacle of “watch us be holier than everyone else”, much like the Pharisees and Sadducees. This is precisely the type of thing that Christ warned against. He further promised that God will reward those that pray in secret, and it should be noted that Jesus makes it clear that the hypocrites who prayed out in the open, where they were seen of men, have their reward already.
Simply put, our prayers are between us and God. It is a matter of our requests and concerns. Now there is not a problem with a group gathering together in a house or a church to pray. The Bible actually supports this. However, to gather in a public area to pray, an area where there is a high amount of visibility, that is just vain ego.
Should we pray? Yes. We are encouraged to let our “requests be known unto God”, as the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, noting that he tells us to not be anxious in anything and to let our reasonableness be known to all. So, prayer is plainly about our requests to God. However, we should not make a spectacle of ourselves when we pray.
How, then, should we pray? Well, what did Christ Jesus say? In the same chapter in which he pointedly says not to pray in public, we also find that which is called “The Lord’s Prayer”. Beginning at Matthew 6:9 and ending at 6:13 we read:
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Please note that this prayer is a common part of the worship in many liturgical churches, including Lutheran, and usually includes “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen”. Whether or not that inclusion was in the original or not is debatable, but it is a good summary reminder of what the prayer says plainly. This is the model prayer, and the prayer of all who trust in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is no small wonder that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther devoted a good portion of the Small Catechism to this.
Much like a request at work should only involve ourselves and our supervisors, so too, prayer should only between us and God. We wouldn’t want to broadcast to the world that we have to take time off to attend court, so too should we not want to attract attention to our petitions to the Lord our God for wisdom, discernment, and peace as we live this life, though perhaps not peace as the world defines it.
The greatest need in our lives, God already took care of when Christ Jesus died upon the cross for our sins and rose from the grave, ensuring everlasting life to all who believe. However, as we live in this life, we have our needs and concerns. The best thing we can do with those is to turn to God, and pray to him while in a quiet, private place. God will answer those prayers, though not always as we want them answered. Incidentally, Garth Brooks is liar, God always answers prayer, there is no such thing as an “unanswered prayer”. When Jesus said that the Pharisees prayers were “unanswered”, he was saying that the answer they wanted they weren’t getting because it did not line up with God’s will.
Making a request known at work is sometimes necessary, especially when its a request for time off. Making a request to God for those needs you can not provide for yourself is also important, though it may be that your “need” is really a “want”. Still, we are called to and should pray. However, we are called to do so privately, whether alone or in a small group, but never out in public for all to see.
Though not a big fan of his music these days (I have some concerns about his theology), I leave you with Carman’s “Prayer Anthem”, which is a great musical rendition of the Lord’s Prayer: