Stan Cox

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Worship in the Local Church


C.R. Nichol and R.L Whiteside, in their Sound Doctrine workbooks, said of prayer, “Perhaps no one can be entirely free from his environments; but to keep this prayerless spirit of the present age from overwhelming us, let us diligently read the Bible, and thus associate with God and Christ and the praying men of God — and pray.  Prayer is the very breath of the Christian” (Vol. 2, pg. 68).

“Prayer is the very breath of the Christian.”  This is a sentiment, which if embraced by Christians, will lead to the type of spiritual maturity and mindset needed to combat the evil of our day.

Though prayer can be an intensely private experience, it is right and proper for Christians to pray in the public assembly as well.  In such circumstances, one is called upon to “lead” in prayer, and has the responsibility to do so in an edifying manner.  Paul instructed the saints in Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 14, to pray in worship with spirit and understanding (vs. 15).  Though the immediate context has reference to the confusion which would be present if a prayer was offered in an “unknown tongue” without benefit of interpretation (vs. 14), nevertheless the principle remains relevant to this day.  Paul wrote, “Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?” (vs. 16).

When offering up prayer to God in worship, the leader should be careful to use language that all can understand, and to speak loud enough for the entire church to hear him.  If a man is unwilling or incapable of this, he should not be put into this position of leadership in public worship.  Remember, the purpose of public prayer is twofold.  First, to make known to God the sentiments, needs and requests of those gathered; and second, to edify fellow worshippers.

Concerning public prayer:

  • Paul wrote to Timothy, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).

  • The apostles prayed for God’s guidance before casting lots to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:24-25).
  • The early disciples, after Pentecost, continued steadfastly in prayer to God (Acts 2:42).
  • When Peter and John reported to the Christians in Jerusalem their mistreatment at the hands of the Jewish leaders, they prayed together, “and the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
  • In Acts 6, as men were chosen for the work of serving tables in the church’s benevolent efforts, prayer was offered as they laid hands on “these seven men of good reputation” (vs. 3).
  • Peter and John prayed for the Christians in Samaria, that they might “receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:15).
  • When Peter was imprisoned for his preaching of the gospel, the saints in Jerusalem kept a constant vigil for him in his need.  “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5).
  • The church in Antioch prayed for Paul and Barnabas before sending them away in their ministry (Acts 13:3).
  • Paul and Barnabas prayed with the congregations as they appointed men to serve as elders (Acts 14:23).

These few examples show that prayer was a central part of the first century Christian’s worship to God, and show us that it should be integral to our worship as well.

Prayer is our means of communicating to God our praise, needs, penitence, and supplications on our own behalf and on behalf of others.  Our Lord taught in parable, “that men ought always to pray, and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Prayer, offered confidently by a saint, can accomplish wonders.  “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).  As we engage in worship to the Almighty God in heaven, may we all “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16), petitioning God in faith.

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