REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 30, 2014; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).
Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“Why Should I Pray with Others?”
Psalm 54: 1-3
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, “Is not David hiding among us?” (NIV)
O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. 2 O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. 3 For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Selah (ESV).
Today, as we prepare for corporate worship, I wanted to address two important notes that are found in the Psalms. First, the word “selah,” though the exact meaning is unknown, is an interlude in the music where the congregation is led into reflection and prayer. Second, the phrase “for the director of music,” which is in the heading of many of the Psalms including Psalm 54, is an undeniable evidence that these prayers were accompanied by music, along with a priest or leader within the temple who led people into corporate prayer.
The reason why I bring this up is because this colors the way we understand prayer, worship, and liturgy. Many people think that churches that are more contemporary and charismatic in their worship format have no real biblical liturgy, but that simply isn’t true. Based on an understanding of the Psalms and the way Jesus taught us how to pray, the community in prayer takes priority over individualized prayer.
American churches have generally reversed this order because of our culture’s extreme individualism, but the Psalms teach us that, at the fundamental level, prayer requires community; and for us to learn how to pray, we have to do so in a corporate setting. For this reason, Jesus calls the church a “House of Prayer.”
Eugene Peterson summarized this perfectly when he wrote, “From this center, lines of prayer radiate outwards (and) we go to our closets or the mountains, into the streets and the markets, and continue our praying. But it is essential to understand that prayer goes from the center outwards….”
Now you might be saying, why do I need to have someone lead me into prayer? The answer is very pragmatic: If you insist on praying based on your own motivations and initiative, you are taking on a psychological burden that is too much for most of us. We can all relate with trying to pray regularly, but falling flat on our faces; yet if you allow a pastor or worship leader to guide you, it takes prayer out of the control of your emotions, motivations, lack of physical energy, and your external circumstances, placing that spiritual responsibility on the leader. This is what your pastors are called to do, so allow them to lead you into the community of prayer this Lord’s day, even as you “go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen” (Matt. 6:6) daily.
Prayer: O God, give me a heart of repentance as I pray so that I might desire the same change that You desire from my life. Help me to acknowledge that Your way is best and that following Your commands produces godliness and character. Finally, Lord, help me to desire to pray with others. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 4