Tuesday evening saw another one of our now regularly occurring Prayer Meetings. It’s always so encouraging to see many of our church family coming together in this way, even if it’s on computer screens. While we wait for the moment we can gather together in person it’s a great way to express our unity in Christ and all that he’s done for us.
The Prayer Meeting and some other events have, however, made the pastoral team notice a tendency amongst some of us to pray in a certain way that might be unhelpful. Of course, our prayers to God are not dependent upon getting our words exactly right, as though prayer is a magic spell that needs to be uttered in the right way (Levi-OH-sa anyone?!). It’s the attitude of the heart that’s most important (Psalm 51:17) and the Spirit is more than able to take our clumsy ignorant or hurting words and present them as wonderful prayers before God (Rom. 8:26-27).
At the same time what we say is important. In the 20th Century the phrase “lex orandi, lex credendi” began to be used. It means “the law of what is prayed is the law of what is believed”; simply put, the words that we use shape the way that we believe. That’s why it’s important to think about all our words in every aspect of Christian expression and worship; the songs we sing and the prayers we pray are not only shaped by what we believe but they also shape what we believe. So what do we need to be careful about in our prayers?
We’ve noticed that many of us are ending our prayers with the simple phrase “in your name, Amen”. This appears to be very similar to the other established expression “in Jesus’ name, Amen” but it’s actually saying something very different. Prayer is a wonderful expression of the restored relationship that we have with God the Father. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb. 4:16) but we can only do so because someone else has opened up that way for us:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.HEBREWS 4:14
It is Jesus’ death on the cross and then resurrection and ascension that means he now intercedes for us with the Father.
So that one word makes all the difference. When we end a prayer to God the Father with “in your name” we’re effectively (by accident, of course) cutting Jesus out of the picture; almost saying that we don’t need him. When we finish our prayers with “in Jesus name” (or something similar) we’re expressing the very basis of our prayers; the confidence we can have to pray in the first place – Jesus himself.
Can we encourage you to be deliberate in your prayers going forward, both personally and those when we meet together? They can only happen because of Jesus and they are heard because of Jesus. Let’s remind ourselves and each other of that with every petition, not to mention bring Jesus the glory and honour he is due for such a wonderful work on our behalf.
David Ould / Senior Associate Minister
St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta
PRAY: Give thanks that Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension means he now intercedes for us with the Father. Pray that we will be deliberate in our prayers, remembering it is a wonderful expression of the restored relationship we have with God the Father.
Join us this Sunday for our online Sunday service. We meet at 10am each Sunday on YouTube right through lockdown. Or check out out Sunday services page for more information on our face-to-face services.
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash