Didn't Jesus say something about the hypocrites who pray on street corners to be heard by men? So why is the 9Marks eJournal printing the corporate prayers of several individuals from Capitol Hill Baptist Church? Forgive me for presumption in presenting the prayers of one's own church as a model (none of them are mine); my hope is merely to share with pastors a sample of the richness I have personally benefited from since 1996. Set aside if you can any concerns you might have about formality, style, or culture. Pay attention instead to how big and holy and loving the God of these prayers is. Consider the strength and comfort a congregation would find as it listens to its leaders pray this way. Think about how they will learn to pray in turn. Think about the church's unity.
Pay attention especially to the two pastoral prayers, and consider what it means to teach your church how to pray like—forgive my boast in my pastor—a globally thinking and loving Christian.
I trust and rejoice that many pastors will find nothing surprising here because they already pray this way. But if you don't pray with such depth, let me encourage you to consider the samples presented here. Except for the book reviews, everything else in this issue should help you to see why. Christians used to take greater care in their prayers. We need to again. (See Johnson and Duncan's brief and convicting history of the matter in ch. 7, Give Praise to God, P&R.)
To get you started, here's what Philip Graham Ryken has said about his time as an intern at the renowned William Still's Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen, Scotland: "Back in 1992 it was typical for a member of that church to thank God for the way he had brought down the Iron Curtain of communism in eastern Europe. From the way that they prayed, it was clear that they believed that their prayers had something to do with the collapse of the Soviet Empire. I was tempted to pull one of them aside and say, 'You know, it was a little more complicated than that. The global economy had something to do with it, not to mention the arms race and the spiritual bankruptcy of communism. It took more than your prayers to pull down the Berlin Wall.'
"I was tempted to say such a thing, but I knew better. Who is to say what part a praying church actually plays in world affairs? To go to Gilcomston on a Saturday night was to know what was going on in the world. The prayers of God's people really are at the heart of what God is doing. When the true history of the world is finally written, we will discover that Christians like the ones in Aberdeen had a profound influence on world events" (P. G. Ryken, Jeremiah & Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope, Crossway, pp. 390-91).