Prayer is a crucial part of a Christian’s (and a church’s) life. Hence, I write to invite you to ponder with me on this often-time neglected issue. Let me first ask you to think about this: Is there a difference between public and private prayer? And, if there is, how much time do you give to each?
Jesus in Matthew 6:6 seems to advocate private prayer when he says, “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” (ESV). On the other hand, James in James 5:14 teaches this: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (ESV). Private prayer is advocated in the former and public prayer in the latter.
From the above we can see that the difference is rather simple. Public prayer (also commonly referred to as “corporate” or “common” prayer) is where “two or three” or more, “are gathered in my name”. Whereas, in private prayer, there is just one person praying quietly.
Both are effectual, and ought to be practised. There are three reasons for this: Firstly, both are acceptable to God. Isaiah 56: 6 and 7 confirm this, “everyone who keeps the Sabbath … and holds fast my covenant -- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."
Secondly, God promises to hear! This is confirmed by 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face … then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
And thirdly, God promises to bless, “In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.” (Exodus 20:24).
God accepts and promises to hear and bless us when we go to him in prayer. I should think we don’t need any more motivators to live a life of prayerfulness. I would like to add that there is one ancillary duty to which we are appointed and for which we are to be mindful of. And that is, we are to encourage and exhort one another to this life of prayerfulness. The following are the proof texts:
Psalm 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” Zechariah 8:21 “The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’”
Will you be there when the next call for public prayer is made?
Rev. Robert Chew