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Thoughts on the Way: Public Prayers

At first, when I heard her, I was a bit embarrassed because nobody else was saying “Amen.” But after some reflection, I have come to agree with her.
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Public prayers should be relevant. This means they should be related to the immediate purpose, whether an opening prayer, prayer on behalf of others, thanks for bread or wine, etc. For example, there is a time to pray for those who are sick or traveling, but the thanks for the bread or wine is not the time.

Praying in the presence of others may be quite difficult at first for some brothers. There is no problem with a young or inexperienced brother preparing one or more written prayers (suitable to various situations), ready to be used if he is called upon to pray.

Prayers should not be repetitious. There is no need to recount all the key points of the exhortation that preceded the prayer. However, it may be useful to take one point and emphasize that in your prayer. There is no need to pray through the whole plan of salvation just because you can. Keep in mind that young children, never mind their parents, as well as older folks, may have problems with long prayers—either with standing still or concentrating for more than a minute or two.

Prayers should be fresh and spontaneous, if possible. In my opinion, prayers are best when offered in common, everyday language, not old, artificial “Sunday only” speech. Some brothers are well practiced at using King James Version language, and that’s fine for them. But young brothers might want to think about praying in the same language they use for common speech. At least it will sound natural and not forced.

Public prayers should be short and to the point. The writer of Ecclesiastes has some useful advice:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God… Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Eccl 5:1, 2).1

Jesus criticized the Pharisees because their prayers were carefully crafted to sound pleasing to the listeners and to enhance their own reputations. Here is what Jesus said:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men… And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matt 6:5, 7, 8). 

Bro. C.C. Walker, a former Editor of The Christadelphian, had this to say about what he called “indecorous prayers,” that is, inappropriate or unacceptable prayers: 

The disciples felt their inability so much that they asked the Lord to teach them to pray. And he taught them “the Lord’s Prayer.” In English it takes only about sixty words. “God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few” [Eccl 5:2]. So said Solomon and the “greater than Solomon” (that is, Jesus Christ) upholds it. His own examples are marvels of chaste brevity and simplicity.

All acceptable prayer is based upon faith and obedience, coupled with brevity, simplicity and suitability. Thanks for the bread and wine should be carefully confined to the subject. A closing prayer should not epitomize a lecture or exhortation. Prayers that God “will make us” thus and so, without our honest endeavor, are hypocrisy. “The Lord make us truly thankful” is an indecorous prayer. “Father, we thank Thee” is the Christ model.

One final point about prayer. It is more than a tradition for prayers to end with “Amen.” This word has a very real purpose. The “Amen” should not only be spoken by the brother praying. It should be echoed by everyone in the audience.

Why is that? “Amen” is the Hebrew word for “truth” or “truly.” In other words, an “Amen” after a prayer is a way of saying:

I agree with this prayer. The prayer offered by the brother on my behalf is my prayer, too.
By saying, “Amen,” I am saying: “Yes, LORD, this is my prayer, too.”
We are all praying together for what this brother has spoken aloud for us all. 

Say the “Amen” at the end of the prayers, and say it like you mean it. If you are not sure you can say “Amen” at the end, it may mean you weren’t listening as you should have. And that’s a cause for another kind of self-examination: Why wasn’t I listening?

One little aside: My grandmother was a devout Christadelphian who grew up in a different era. If the speaker said something with which she wholeheartedly agreed, she would respond with an audible “Amen.” At first, when I heard her, I was a bit embarrassed because nobody else was saying “Amen.” But after some reflection, I have come to agree with her. Good on you, Grandma!

George Booker,
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX


  1. All Scriptural citations are taken from the New International Version, unless specifically noted.
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