What We Do When We Do Church – Prayer

Psalm 141:2

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts, according to the Explanation to Luther’s Small Catechism.

After the offerings are received, Lutheran worship continues the act of sacrifice with the offering up of the Prayers of the Church.

The previous devotions in this series are:

Part 1 – Hymnody
Part 2 – Invocation
Part 3 – Baptism
Part 4 – Confession of Sins
Part 5 – Absolution
Part 6 – Introit / Psalmody
Part 7 – Kyrie
Part 8 – Hymn of Praise
Part 9 – Scripture Readings
Part 10 – Sermon
Part 11 – Confession of Faith
Part 12 – Offering
Part 13 – Offertory

I once heard it said that as long as they give tests in school there will be prayer in school.

The night before a big final, I used to pray that Jesus would come back that very evening and eliminate the need to further study (or begin studying) for that test.

Admittedly, it is not a very wise plan for taking finals.

But the act of prayer is very much a part of the Christian life.

Martin Luther is believed to have said (and it apparently was quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr.):

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

Prayer is something that all Christians do. We have “set” prayers like the Lord’s Prayer (covered in the next set of devotions) and we have spontaneous prayers (like in school or driving on the tollway).

In worship, we have the Prayers of the Church.

These are specific prayers for the sick, the injured, the hospitalized, the dying, the families of those who have suffered a death, those celebrating special days (like anniversaries and birthdays), those who are to be baptized, those who will partake of the Sacrament of the Altar, and for our national, local, and church leaders.

These are called “corporate prayers” because we all are praying – even though most of the time it is the pastor who is saying the actual prayer.

In many churches, the conclusion of each petition is either “hear our prayer” or “Lord, have mercy.”

When we pray in Jesus’ name and with faith in Christ, we rightly expect our prayers to be heard and answered.

Again, the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism says:

“Only those who believe in Jesus Christ may pray to God and expect to be heard.”

And it uses these two Bible passages as “proof texts”:

John 14:13-14
I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.

John 15:7
If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

Prayer – whether the corporate prayer in church or the individual prayer of each Christian – is a privilege granted by God.

Jesus tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

And that is exactly what we are doing when we pray.

Next time, we’ll explore in depth the prayer Jesus taught us.

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