Music comes to my mind often so I often have a song running in my mind during the day. Today, an old song, “Standing On The Corner”, came to mind as I drove north on Shadeland Avenue. As recorded by The Four Lads, the song reached number 3 on the Billboard Music Charts in 1956.
The song came to mind after passing a church where some people were standing next to the street at a corner of their parking lot trying to get people to pull in for a “drive through” prayer. For some, that may seem very righteous and appropriate. For me, it also reminded me of Matthew 6:5 “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.” Jesus directs us to pray in private. There are places in the Bible that indicate that corporate or group prayers are appropriate as part of worship services. The prayer display I witnessed today seemed to be commercial prayer or prayer done in public to draw attention. So, I think it fell beyond the boundaries of either of the biblical directives on prayer. How many others passing by had that thought I wondered?
Then, after some thought, it occurred to me that there are also times when one can gain comfort from having others pray for them within the love of God. I believe that is appropriate so long as the prayer is in earnest and is for helping the person who is in pain connect with and find comfort in the love of God. So, I assumed that was likely what was occurring.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus would have told us to pray in private? Why did Jesus withdraw to be by himself when he prayed? To me, prayer will be more earnest when it is private. Solitude can facilitate a closeness to God and the ability to connect with God. Obviously, Jesus had seen people who prayed in public and made a big show of it. It appears that Jesus thought that the person who prayed in that way was seeking attention for himself. I believe those who heard Jesus probably felt the same way that Jesus felt. In such prayer, God is lost or left out even though the speaker may repeat God and names for God many times in the prayer. The message of God is missed.
How does showy public prayer affect those who are not of the same mind as the one shouting out his prayer? It drives them away. The message of love spoken by Jesus is missed as the speaker draws attention by exclaiming, “Look at me! I am praying!” or “Look at us! We pray!”
Much of the public and corporate “prayer” I have witnessed has carried a message meant more for those humans hearing the prayer than it has carried an earnest conversation with God.