In Lesson #13 of the Always Praying series, we get to drop in on King David’s son, Solomon, when he gives a public prayer to dedicate the temple (1 Kings 8:1-66). While the Lord’s Prayer is a template for all our prayers, Solomon’s prayer is more specific; teaching us how we are supposed to pray when we are in a corporate setting (i.e. church, small groups, etc). This, and other biblical examples, show us that corporate prayer should focus on corporate matters, not personal matters.
How many times have we bowed our heads in a group of people and one person prays aloud for the healing of a church member’s second-cousin’s hairdresser’s mom’s cancer or some other temporal/private matter like success or provision? It is possible that this type of misplaced prayer topic may very well….
- be denying the distinction of promises between believers and non-believers.
- be denying the plan for Jesus’ intercession.
- be denying the purpose of suffering to produce perseverance.
- in all of this, be denying the will of God; certainly as it regards one of the reasons suffering comes: to produce repentance for sin.
Why do we let our prayers focus so often on these misguided notions? I believe this stems from a desire to be liked – to not rub salt in someone’s wound – or not wanting to confront the all-too-common victim mentality. The truth is: suffering, trials, and even imminent death doesn’t make you a victim; it makes you a victor in Christ; if indeed you are in Christ. We have to stop this cultural madness of praying for God’s people, when some temporary suffering has gripped them, as though they are just like the lost: fragile, without hope, and in need of pity.
What Does Suffering Remind You Of?
The only thing that is truly gripping any believer, and all believers corporately, is the stench of their sin originated by the fall and perpetuated by the flesh. Thank goodness, we gradually shed our bent toward sin through sanctifying trials. Solomon tells us these trials should remind us of our sin, and our need to continually ask for forgiveness. This is done in personal prayer for personal sins and corporate prayer for sins/concerns of the body of Christ. The Christian life is the constantly repenting life.
Solomon speaks with an eternal perspective about Israel’s many trials and tribulations. He didn’t sugar-coat anything about suffering and he never once asked for relief for God’s people. He was directing the people to look at their suffering and their circumstances only through the lens of sin and their desperate need for God’s forgiveness. Solomon wants them to see that even the horrible stuff they are going through is working out an eternal purpose according to God’s plan.
Life, the here and the hereafter, is enormous and eternal. When we pray we are on holy ground; privileged to be speaking to an Eternal Being about His eternal creation. And that prayer should focus on eternal things. Temporal things matter in prayer (supplication) as long as they are always, without fail, submitted to the eternal plan and purpose of God Almighty. That purpose is to bring all of His sheep into the kingdom through the holy work of Jesus Christ.
[To learn how to talk to God about your temporal needs such as sickness, death, money, success, etc., please read Always Worshiping.]
When are the corporate prayers of our pastors and small group leaders going to conform to biblical design and get excited about the good work and purpose of suffering in the lives of Christians? It’s like sanctifying suffering is the ugly step-child of Christianity. Better to ignore it than celebrate it because we wouldn’t want to scare the lost away. Every self-help book, program, and guru out there even acknowledge that admitting you have a problem is the first step. Christians just tend to think suffering is the problem instead of sin. That fills more seats for sure, but it has produced a generation of confused Christians asking for prayers for their illnesses on Facebook instead of crying out for God’s forgiveness of sin in their personal prayers.
Wrapping It All Up
I hope that you have learned as much as I have in this amazing series about prayer. You and I no longer need to pray ineffectual or un-biblical prayers because we don’t know any better. All the tools are here in the Always Praying audio and blog series from gccbg.com. If you want to yank the morphine drip on your faith and breathe in real Biblical truth not taught in our sterilized American churches, subscribe below. You’ll not want to miss my future commentary on Pastor Steve Wilson’s hard-hitting-truth-bombs about our amazing God.