Summary: This sermon deals with why we are reluctant to pray to God in both public and private.
Please Don’ Ask Me To Pray
How many of you have ever been at a meeting and it came time to open in prayer or close in prayer and you were saying on the inside “Please don’t ask me to pray.” One of our members who lived to be about 105 was Mr. Jones. One of the pastors before us had asked him to pray, to which Mr. Jones replied, “Rev. I believe that’s your job.”
What is it about prayer, that leads us to praying, “oh God please don’t let her ask me to pray.” Well part of the problem is that we took prayer and made it something religious. Prayer is suppose to be a conversation with God in which we talk to God and God speaks back to us. Now God does not necessarily speak in an audible voice, but God clearly will communicate with us by His Spirit, by God’s Word, by circumstances and by other people.
Many of us intuitively knew how to pray before we got religious. We expected God to be close and personal even though we may have only wanted it to be the case for a short period of time. For instance, when you got a test and you had no idea in school what the answer was, what did you do? You said, “God please help me pass this test.” Or when you had a crush on some guy or girl, you prayed “Oh God let so and so see me and like me. And you earnestly expected God to hear you and to answer your prayer. You checked to see if you passed that test. You did your best to find out if Charles or Barbara really did like you. You simply talked to God.
But then you came into the church and you discovered that praying was supposed to be holy. Talking to God had to be taken seriously. We as pastors and church leaders we were given the job of praying, and we wanted to make a good impression, so we changed prayer from being a simple conversation directly to God and made it sound truly religious. It seemed more spiritual. We dropped Oh God, and discovered such prayers as Oh Eternal, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Most Magnificent God Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe do bless these delightful morsels that we are about to take for the health and nourishment of our bodies.
After you’re in the church long enough, you feel compelled to start using these grand titles for God if you are to pray publicly and another person is around. You get afraid that you might not use the right list of names, or not say enough of them, or say the thing in the wrong order, so you start praying, “God please don’t let them call on me to pray.” Even worse yet, when the pastor asks, will someone lead us in prayer, there is complete silence for 60 seconds while half the group is praying that somebody would lead in prayer, before their name gets call to do it.
Now I’m not knocking people who pray using the most eloquent of words, but they intimidate others who think their prayers are not holy or religiously sounding enough. They also move God from being close and personal, to be distant and far. Now we are here to become more like Jesus. Jesus never had a problem praying in public. When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesus said begin with a simple, Our Father. Who is in Heaven, Holy is your name.
Jesus chose a simple and personal term for us to talk with God, because Jesus wanted us to know that God is close, personal, and interested in our request When prayer becomes a matter of talking to God, and stop being a religious function, we will discover we can spend a lot longer time in prayer. We will also be more real with God.
There is still another reason we say, “Please don’t ask me to pray.” Imagine for a moment that you have your own business selling designer jeans. You notice though that your jeans are disappearing, but you don’t see the increase in sales in your cash receipts. Then one day you come back to the store after hours, and you notice your employee taking jeans out of the store and selling them to someone on the streets. You see them taking money from this other person in exchange for your jeans. You keep your cool. You drive by slow enough so that your employee could see that you saw what he had done.
Now the next morning, the employee comes to work just as he always did. But this morning he comes to your office and knocks on the door and says, Boss may I talk with you for a moment. You say, “yes I had a feeling you’d want to talk.” And then your employee says, “Look, I need to leave work early on Friday to go away for the weekend to Las Vegas with my family, and I was wondering if you could let me have my check early on Thursday and maybe get a $100 advance on next week check.