Protracted Public Prayers

Avoiding long prayers.

By ARTHUR A. CONE, Pastor-Evangelist, Orlando, Florida

It is believed that Buddha once said, "The greatest prayer is patience," Could Buddha have been present at a general meeting we at­tended not long ago, we believe he would have revised that statement to, "The greatest prayer calls for the greatest patience." From this stand­point, most of the public prayers offered at that gathering were masterpieces. Some could well be classified as prayer marathons. We were often re­minded of these words by Gurnall:

"Sometimes, perhaps, thou hearest another pray with much freedom and fluency, whilst thou canst hardly get out a few broken words. Hence thou art ready to accuse thyself and admire him, as if the gilding of the hey made it open the door the better."

We were personally instructed and admonished by remarks we overheard after some of these long prayers were offered. We make bold to repeat those remarks here, not because we approve the spirit in which they were made, but because most of us, no doubt, may be benefited by this cross sec­tion of public opinion regarding long public prayers.

One remark, after an unusually long public prayer, was, "If there was anything God didn't know about this earth and its inhabitants and world conditions, He surely knows all about it now !" This brings to mind the following very pertinent counsel from the Lord:

"All should feel it a Christian duty to pray short. Tell the Lord just what you want, without going all over the world."—Testimonies, Vol. II, p. 578.

"One or two minutes is long enough for any ordinary prayer. . . . But many offer prayer in a dry, sermonizing manner. These pray to men, not to God. If they were praying to God, and really understood what they were doing, they would be alarmed at their audacity ; for they deliver a discourse to the Lord in the mode of prayer, as though the Creator of the universe needed special in­formation upon general questions in relation to things transpiring in the world. All such prayers are as sound­ing brass and a tinkling cymbal. They are made no ac­count of in heaven. Angels of God are wearied with them, as well as mortals who are compelled to listen to them."—Id., pp. 581, 582.

After another very long prayer, during which the congregation stood, and during which many of the more feeble and aged, and mothers with little ones, felt compelled to be seated, we heard some­one heave a sigh and remark, "He surely told God a plenty !" And the one to whom the remark was addressed replied with this question: "How would that man, or anybody else, ever know whether God answered his prayer or not ?" I concluded that neither of these persons was edified or helped by the prayer, and I confess that my own heart responded in the same way.

Job asks the question, "Should a man full of talk be justified ?" Job 11:2. And we remember, in this connection, that "two men went up into the temple to pray." The one told God all about himself and others, while the other offered a very short, humble prayer, simply worded, which reached the heart of Christ and brought forth this response: "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other." (See Luke 18 :10-14.) We have observed that in general -meetings most of the public prayers are far longer than any prayer recorded in the Bible.

"When Christ taught the people, He did not devote the time to prayer. He did not enforce upon them, as did the Pharisees, long tedious ceremonies and prayers. He taught His disciples how to pray : 'And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the cor­ners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward.' . . . One or two minutes is long enough for any ordinary prayer."—/d., pp. 580, 581.

"Prayer is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it ; not fig­ures of speech, but earnestness of soul."—Hannah More.

"The fewer words the better prayer."—Luther.

"Let not him who prays suffer his tongue to outstrip his heart; nor presume to carry a message to the throne of grace, while that stays behind."—South.

"I have lived to thank God that all my prayers have not been answered."--Jean Ingelow.

"So weak is man, so ignorant and blind, that did not God sometimes withhold in mercy what we ask, we should be ruined at our own request."—Hannah More.

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By ARTHUR A. CONE, Pastor-Evangelist, Orlando, Florida

December 1944

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