This Public Prayer Stirs Up Grace

A Different Request

I can tell this Saturday will be different.

The lead church-of-the-month—it alternates every month—isn’t here. A hiccup in plans.

But Fran has made sure all the bases are covered: there will be worship music; there will be a message from the Word; there will be food enough for all (thanks, Scruggs BBQ). Outdoor Church is important to our homeless and local underserved community. They gather at Manna House each month for this.

When I see Larry in charge, I also know it will be different. Larry is a humble pastor. He knows these folks by name. He sees their hearts and works in their lives and believes in a God who is bigger than every circumstance.

So when Larry says we will begin differently, I’m not too surprised. But when he says we’ll start by all praying aloud together, I know this is new for Outdoor Church.

I wonder about a couple of guys in the back. They are already rowdy. Others are still heads-down, talking to no one. Mixed in are “church people,” who know formal prayers and formal ways.

I’m not sure what the response will be to Larry’s request to “Let’s all pray at the same time out loud.”

Public Prayer as Grace

Prayer is a strange enough phenomena as it is.

  • Why does God want our prayers anyway?
  • Does he answer those who pray in doubt?
  • Are repetitious prayers kicked out?

I’ve started reading a 500-year-old book (on my Kindle, the irony) about spiritual disciplines, including prayer. Tim Challies has invited us to read it together (join in—this is week 1!). It is Holy Helps for a Godly Life by Richard Rogers, a Puritan author, “the Enoch of his age.” It’s been revised this year for our modern ears.

While the overall focus of the book is on spiritual disciplines and grace, this week’s chapters (1-3) focus on three public means of grace: the ministry of the Word, the sacraments, and public prayers.

But the same practices are just as relevant now as in 1500.

There’s a fine line between doing to receive, and receiving to do.

“But godliness never flourishes unless it is planted in the fertile soil of God’s grace. Legalism subverts the gospel.”
– Brian G. Hedges (in the Preface, Holy Helps for a Godly Life)

So when offered to do one of these means of grace—public prayers—with the group on Saturday morning, I am eager to accept.

And I am curious to see what will happen in our ragtag group.

The Prayer that Stirs

Larry begins. Eyes close. And mouths open.

Little by little, I hear murmurings from those around me. I search my own heart and begin praying for my sweet friend Erma who is sitting beside me. We see each other often at Manna House. I know she has needs, like all of us, and I know she has faith. It is easy to pray for her.

As the minutes tick off, the crowd continues to chatter aloud to God. It is a beautiful noise. Then Larry gets louder again, with these words:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

And to my surprise, the crowd joins in full and strong. In sync and connected.

Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.

It is a holy moment.

Amen.

There are those who claim public recitations of prayers are in vain. That prayers need to be spontaneous. That they need to be spoken one person at a time, in an orderly fashion, with somber tone and words.

But not on this Saturday morning.

“For if the content is erroneous, then the words pronounced do not make it good; and if the content is good and pure, then the reading cannot make it evil.”
– Richard Rogers

This cacophony of prayer is drenched in grace and received by faith. It is a divine gift of participation.

For at least these sacred moments, our crowd is a community. The rumble has become one voice. And there is an awareness of Presence stronger than has existed before.

Rogers is right:

“Let them resolve together what must be granted: that public prayers are a help to stir up God’s graces in us and to convey to us the many good blessings of God, which we need.”

Grace is stirred up. God’s many good blessings have arrived in us. We need them. Amen.

* * *

Join in at Tim Challies’ blog or his Facebook page for the first three (short) chapters of Holy Helps for a Godly Life. Then read a few more chapters for next Thursday’s discussion.

Do you participate in public prayers? When have you been particularly moved by a prayer offering? Please share in the comments.

sharing with DawnRachel, Lori, Crystal, Debbie

30 thoughts on “This Public Prayer Stirs Up Grace

  1. Kristi Woods

    Beautiful. I gathered the sweet aroma of the prayer scene, Lisa. I can only imagine the scent it offered to our Father. And what a neat title for the ages-old book (ebook…how funny!) you’re reading. God’s best as you and your church as you journey to new, perhaps even uncomfortable, places. What beautiful worship of the King. #heartencouragementThursday

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Kristi. I love how God puts such unexpected graces in our path for us to trip over. He is good to walk us through our fears and discomforts to land on him.

  2. Debbie Putman

    There is a difference between public prayers to show how spiritual we are, as the Pharisees did and public prayer that is genuinely worshiping and petitioning God, as these prayers at Outside Church did.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, Debbie. There is definitely a difference between those two types of prayer. Sometimes we can sniff them out in an instant, too, yes? I’m grateful for hearts that are pure and I pray for mine to turn more and more inside out.

  3. Emily | To Unearth

    I’ve participated in public prayer before, and at first it can feel so very awkward! We’re used to the intimacy of prayer, which is also needed, but there is definitely power in prayer when we all raise our voices together! Visiting from #DestinationInspiration. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I feel the same, Emily. It took me quite awhile to get comfortable with public praying. I grew up only praying in my head, so it was quite a change to move into spoken prayers. But through the years I’ve learned how powerful they can be!

  4. Debbie

    Such a beautiful moment. God loves to hear our prayers, so I’m sure it was a sweet aroma. I read Challies and thought of joining in. Maybe I’ll check it out again.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Don’t let the age of the book deter you, if you do decide to join in. For it to be from a Puritan writer, it’s been rewritten in an easy-to-read format. 🙂

  5. floyds

    Wow! So awesome to see the Spirit of God moving on each heart in unison.

    This is a once in a lifetime thing for many of them and us.

    I’m in awe of that moment. What a blessing to be witness to it!

    Keep the work and faith, sister!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I love how God surprises us with holy moments in what we think will be just a “regular” moment. He is always present, always up to something good. Thanks, Floyd.

  6. Michele Morin

    A church we visited on vacation practiced public prayer in their morning service. It was different for us, but it was a great experience.
    Curious about this Puritan author! Thanks for the heads up!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Our church does public prayer like that some, and the first time it caught me off guard. 🙂 It definitely is a great experience. I think you would like the book, if you have time to squeeze in another book. The pace that Challies has set is a reasonable one too.

  7. Koki

    So precious. Will keep this in mind. Reminds me of a gospel reggae/ragga singer J Prince whose song Turn Around was sang and done in the streets of Trinidad with drunks, guys high on weed and not the fittest of people for a gospel song. But he has a heart for them and did the Jesus thing which was showing up where they are and loving on them. In the video, they dance and laugh and feel welcome. I’m sure the song trickled down deep.

    It was probably the same for the outdoor church you shared about. Belonging and collectively celebrating that we are His no matter our life state <3

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love the story you share about J Prince. What an amazing scene that must have been. It reminds me of how Jesus would go to where the people were that needed him most. May we do likewise. Thanks, Koki.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Outdoor Church is definitely a highlight of my month on those first Saturdays. It’s also cool to see so many different churches volunteer to take a month. It’s truly a community event and a Kingdom-builder.

  8. Crystal Twaddell

    I’ve started reading Richard Foster’s 12 Spiritual Disciplines, and I think seeing these Christian disciplines as a grace first allows us to pour ourselves into them and expect that we will see God in the midst. I absolutely love public prayer, and I’m moved by the sacred richness of the collective joining together in one purpose…a preview of heaven.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Richard Foster’s earlier book on the spiritual disciplines was the first one I ever read about them, and it was life-changing! I’ve since re-read it a few times and I always gain something from it. Even though I grew up in church, many of these disciplines were non-existent. I’m thankful now to have that broader expansion! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Crystal!

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  10. Jean Wise

    I love how you weaved a current example into what you are reading. I just ordered the book. I am looking forward to reading such an ancient one about spiritual disciplines. You always discover great finds!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hope you like this book, Jean! I think you will find nuggets of wisdom in it. It always amazes me that even these old books are still relevant in important ways.

  11. Lori Schumaker

    Raising our voices together in prayer is so powerful. I have precious memories of moments where the Holy Spirit was tangibly felt. I have goosebumps just envisioning your experience!

    You are one of my featured #MomentsofHope writers this week, my friend. Thank you for sharing hope each week ♥ You are a blessing!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love those moments, too, when we just KNOW that the Holy Spirit is present. So thankful for his realness.

      Thanks for sharing my post on your site today, Lori! I appreciate your consistency and grace in hosting us each week.

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