1. PRAYING IN WORSHIP AND MINISTRY
a. What attitude should characterize our public worship of God, and the way we address Him? Psalm 96:9.
“Humility and reverence should characterize the deportment of all who come into the presence of God. In the name of Jesus we may come before Him with confidence, but we must not approach Him with the boldness of presumption, as though He were on a level with ourselves. There are those who address the great and all-powerful and holy God, who dwelleth in light unapproachable, as they would address an equal, or even an inferior.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 252.
b. What position in public prayer properly reflects this attitude? Psalm 95:6; Acts 20:36; 21:5.
“I have received letters questioning me in regard to the proper attitude to be taken by a person offering prayer to the Sovereign of the universe. Where have our brethren obtained the idea that they should stand upon their feet when praying to God? One who has been educated for about five years in Battle Creek was asked to lead in prayer before Sister White should speak to the people. But as I beheld him standing upright upon his feet while his lips were about to open in prayer to God, my soul was stirred within me to give him an open rebuke. Calling him by name, I said, ‘Get down upon your knees.’ This is the proper position always.”—Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 311.
2. SHORT AND TO THE POINT
a. What example did Jesus leave us of how we should pray in public? Matthew 6:9–13.
“The Lord’s Prayer was not intended to be repeated merely as a form, but it is an illustration of what our prayers should be—simple, earnest, and comprehensive. In a simple petition tell the Lord your needs and express gratitude for His mercies.”—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 357.
“Christ impressed upon His disciples the idea that their prayers should be short, expressing just what they wanted, and no more. He gives the length and substance of their prayers, expressing their desires for temporal and spiritual blessings, and their gratitude for the same. How comprehensive this sample prayer! It covers the actual need of all. One or two minutes is long enough for any ordinary prayer.”—Ibid., vol.2, p. 581.
b. What principle of how we should speak can also apply to our public prayers? Proverbs 10:19. Why are some public prayers so long?
“Long, prosy talks and prayers are out of place anywhere, and especially in the social meeting. Those who are forward and ever ready to speak are allowed to crowd out the testimony of the timid and retiring. Those who are most superficial generally have the most to say. Their prayers are long and mechanical. They weary the angels and the people who listen to them. Our prayers should be short and right to the point. Let the long, tiresome petitions be left for the closet, if any have such to offer. Let the Spirit of God into your hearts, and it will sweep away all dry formality.”—Ibid., vol.4, pp. 70, 71.
“It is often because secret prayer is neglected that long, tedious prayers are offered in public. Let not ministers go over in their petitions a week of neglected duties, hoping to atone for their neglect and to pacify conscience. Such prayers frequently result in bringing others down to a low level of spirituality.”—Gospel Workers, p. 176.
“Prosy, sermonizing prayers are uncalled for and out of place in public. A short prayer, offered in fervor and faith, will soften the hearts of the hearers; but during long prayers they wait impatiently, as if wishing that every word might end it.”—Ibid., p.179.
3. PRAYING WITH HUMILITY
a. What attitude should we avoid in prayer? Matthew 6:5, 7, 8.
“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.”—Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 581, 582.
“When you pray, be brief, come right to the point. Do not preach the Lord a sermon in your long prayers. Ask for the bread of life as a hungry child asks bread of his earthly father. God will bestow upon us every needed blessing if we ask Him in simplicity and faith.”—Ibid., vol.5, p. 201.
b. What is of value in God’s sight? 1 Peter 3:4; James 4:6. How then should we pray?
“Prayer is the most holy exercise of the soul. It should be sincere, humble, earnest—the desires of a renewed heart breathed in the presence of a holy God. When the suppliant feels that he is in the divine presence, self will be forgotten. He will have no desire to display human talent; he will not seek to please the ear of men, but to obtain the blessing which the soul craves.”—Ibid.
c. When will God not hear a prayer being offered in public? Psalm 66:18.
“If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we cling to any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the prayer of the penitent, contrite soul is always accepted. When all known wrongs are righted, we may believe that God will answer our petitions. Our own merit will never commend us to the favor of God; it is the worthiness of Jesus that will save us, His blood that will cleanse us; yet we have a work to do in complying with the conditions of acceptance.”—Steps to Christ, p. 95.
4. GOD’S LEADERS PRAY
a. What example of public prayer did King Solomon give us at the dedication of the temple? 2 Chronicles 6:12, 13.
“At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon stood facing the altar. In the court of the Temple was a brazen scaffold or platform, and after ascending this, he stood and lifted up his hands to heaven, and blessed the immense congregation of Israel, and all the congregation of Israel stood. . . .
“’For Solomon had made a brasen scaffold . . . and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven’ (2 Chronicles 6:13).”—Selected Messages, bk. 2, pp. 312, 313.
b. What can we learn from this prayer? 2 Chronicles 6:14–42.
“The lengthy prayer which [Solomon] then offered was appropriate for the occasion. It was inspired of God, breathing the sentiments of the loftiest piety blended with the deepest humility.”—Ibid., p.313.
c. How did God answer the humble, public prayer of Jehoshaphat for deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:5–12), and what was Jehoshaphat’s response? Verses 14–19.
“Standing in the temple court before his people, Jehoshaphat poured out his soul in prayer, pleading God’s promises, with confession of Israel’s helplessness. . .
“With confidence Jehoshaphat could say to the Lord, ‘Our eyes are upon thee’ (Verses 3–12). For years he had taught the people to trust in the One who in past ages had so often interposed to save His chosen ones from utter destruction; and now, when the kingdom was in peril, Jehoshaphat did not stand alone; ‘all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children’ (Verse 13). Unitedly they fasted and prayed; unitedly they besought the Lord to put their enemies to confusion, that the name of Jehovah might be glorified.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 199, 200.
5. JESUS’ EXAMPLE IN PUBLIC PRAYER
a. What was Jesus’ purpose in one of the few public prayers of His on record? John 11:41–43.
“Lifting up his eyes, the Saviour prayed:—
“ ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always; but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.’ The hush that followed this prayer was broken by Jesus crying out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 365.
b. What was the result of this prayer of faith? John 11:44.
“This crowning miracle of Christ caused many to believe on him. But some who were in the crowd about the grave, and heard and saw the wonderful works performed by Jesus, were not converted, but steeled their hearts against the evidence of their own eyes and ears. This demonstration of the power of Christ was the crowning manifestation offered by God to man as a proof that he had sent his Son into the world for the salvation of the human race. If the Pharisees rejected this mighty evidence, no power in Heaven nor upon earth could wrest from them their Satanic unbelief.”—Ibid., p.366.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What should our posture be when praying publicly? How does this affect our voice in prayer?
2. What can we learn from the prayer Jesus taught His disciples?
3. How might our prayers end up as a sounding brass and as a tinkling cymbal?
4. Why was Jehoshaphat’s prayer answered in such a wonderful way?
5. What was the purpose in Jesus’ short public prayer in front of Lazarus’ grave?