What is prayer? Prayer is asking. There is a difference between worship and prayer. We should always worship in prayer, but we can worship without asking. When we pray we are talking to God and asking Him for favors. Too many times we forget to thank Him for past blessings and favors or to thank Him for what we are now asking. If we ask according to His will we can always thank Him for answering our present requests.
When we are talking with God alone it is proper and right to talk about our personal needs and problems and pour out to Him our heartfelt desires for our immediate family and dear ones, but these requests are out of place in public prayer.
When one prays in public he is talking with God about the needs and problems of those within the hearing of his voice. He is speaking in behalf of those present and his petition should be so worded that those present can from the heart say Amen.
God is real. God is a person. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. If you were leading or accompanying a delegation of people who had an appointment with an earthly king to make requests, you surely would want to give careful thought beforehand as to how you would word your request. At least you would find it very necessary to know what you wanted and be able to state your request clearly and concisely and in such a manner that the people in your company could and would join you in your petition.
If we would talk to an earthly ruler like many people talk to God, we would be expelled from his presence. Let us notice some of the misuses of prayer.
If we were addressing a worldly ruler we would not be so thoughtless as to utter his name or title over and over again while making our request. I once counted the word "Lord" seventeen times in the prayer of a man in public worship. That is taking the name of the Lord in vain. In the sample prayer Jesus gave His disciples when they asked Him to teach them to pray, He addressed God only once, at the beginning of the petition.
Preaching in Prayer
We often hear ministers as well as laymen put a lot of preaching to the congregation in their prayer to God. Let us never forget that we are talking to God and asking Him for definite favors, not preaching to the congregation when we are praying. Many times we hear people hide behind the pretense of prayer to castigate someone in the congregation. This is cowardly, out of order, disrespectful to God, and not prayer. If we would realize that we are talking to God and not to men, we would not do this. We cannot see God, but if we could actually see Him when we pray, how different we would act when we talk to Him!
Do Not Weary God With Words
If we were leading a delegation or taking part with a group in petitioning a governor or king here on earth, we would not dare be longwinded and tire the ruler with useless words. How then should we address God in public worship?
"Some of our preachers are killing themselves by long, tedious praying and loud speaking. . . .
"The long prayers made by some ministers have been a great failure. Praying to great length, as some do, is all out of place. . . . Long praying wearies, and is not in accordance with the gospel of Christ."—Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 616, 617.
"The prayers offered in public should be short and to the point. . .. Many tedious prayers are offered, which are more like giving the Lord a lecture than presenting to Him a request."—Gospel Workers, pp. 175, 176.
"All should feel it a Christian duty to pray short. Tell the Lord just what you want, without going all over the world. . . . A common meeting to worship God is not the place to open the privacies of the heart. What is the object of assembling together? Is it to inform God, to instruct Him by telling Him all we know in prayer?"—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 578.