Acts of Worship – Proffer of Prayer (part 2)

 Prayer is to be a constant part of a Christian life (Luke 18:1; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; 1 Thes. 5:17-18).  It is also to be a part of the worship assembly (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:14-17; 1 Tim. 2:8-12).


The following things will hinder the effectiveness of our prayers: (1) Mistreating family members will hinder prayer (1 Pet. 3:7; Mal. 2:13-14).  Homer Hailey remarked, “Much of the preaching today on ‘home life’ is from the ‘social gospel’ appeal: that you may have a ‘happy home.’  This need not be ridiculed or belittled, but it is not the diving objective.  God’s ideal is that we have a right home relationship that we may be right with Him, maintain a right relationship with Him to the end that our prayers be not hindered and that our goal of eternal life be not defeated but achieved” (Prayer and Providence, p. 81).  The reason for treating your family members properly goes beyond happiness in this life.  (2) Mistreating others will hinder prayer (Isa. 1:15; 59:1-3).  Some use their tongues both to bless God, and to curse man; “My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10 NKJV).   We should try to resolve problems between ourselves and our brethren before we worship (Matt. 5:23-24).  (3) Sinful living and rejection of God’s standards will hinder prayer.  Multitudes of passages teach this (Job 27:8-9; Psalm 34:15-16; 66:18; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 59:1-2; John 9:31; James 5:16; 1 John 3:22; 5:14-15).  It is a righteous man’s prayer which accomplishes much (James 5:16).  We’re to lift up “holy hands.”  That is, we’re to approach Him in purity (Job 17:9; Psalm 24:4; James 4:8 cf. Isa. 1:15; 59:3; Psalm 7:3; 26:10).  (4) Pride, arrogance, self-righteousness will kill our prayer (Luke 18:9-14).  Remember that it is the “poor in spirit – that is blessed (Matt. 5:3).  (5) God is not impressed with prayer (or worship in general) that is motivated by self-exaltation (Matt. 6:1-2, 3, 16).  We’re to be worshipping God, not exalting or promoting self.  (6) Long prayers with vain repetition doesn’t impress God (Matt. 6:7).  Forbidden here is not long prayers (cf. Luke 6:12).  Forbidden here is not repetition in prayer (cf. Matt.  26:44; Rom. 1:9-10).  Forbidden is long prayers filled with beautiful words, many adjectives, adverbs, and Biblically sounding phrases to draw attention to one’s righteousness (see previous point).  Forbidden is the type of prayers that the heathen made (see 1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:36).  These prayers were often long and filled with empty repeated phrases.  They thought such was necessary to be heard of God (cf. rosary).  When we pray, we’re to truly be speaking to God (not just vainly repeated phrases picked up and memorized).  Our spirit is to be praying, not just our lips (1 Cor. 14:14-16).  (7) Carnally minded, self-centered prayers are not effective (James 4:3).  Certainly, we can, and should pray for ourselves (John 17:1a; Matt. 6:11-13; Luke 22:46; 1 Peter 5:7).  However, our prayers should never be purely selfish (John 17:1; Acts 4:29; Eph. 6:18-19; Col. 4:2-3; 1 Thes. 3:10).  It is absolutely proper to pray concerning physical matters (1 Sam. 1:10-ff; 2 Kings 20:1-ff; Matt. 6:11; James 5:14, 17-18; 3 John 2); as well as spiritual matters (Matt. 6:12-13; Acts 4:29; Col. 1:9-10).  However, even when we pray for physical matters, our prayers should not be purely selfish (James 4:3).  It seems to me that we would do well to pray God bless me, so that I may have greater opportunity to exalt You (cf. John 17:1; Psalm 51:9-15).  (8) A lack of faith will hinder our prayers (James 1:6-7 cf. 5:15).  We need to learn to trust in Him.  We should be specific (Rom. 1:9-10; 2 Cor. 12:8-9) and turn things over to Him.

To Whom

The Lord’s Supper is specifically about Jesus.  We’re not remembering the Father, or the Holy Spirit, but the Son (1 Cor. 11:23-26, 29).

Singing is done unto the Lord, which in context refers to Jesus (Eph. 5:19 cf. 4:4-6; Col. 3:16-17).  Singing is done unto God, which in context seems to refer to the Father [Rom. 15:9; Heb. 2:11-13 cf. (John 6:37 cf. 6:44-45); Acts 16:25; Matt. 26:26-30].

What about prayer?  (1) When Jesus was upon earth, He taught the disciples to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2; John 16:23).  (2) When Jesus prayed it was to the Father (Matt. 11:25; 26:39; Luke 10:21; 22:43; John 11:41; 12:28; 17:1-ff).  Gary Workman has written, “In the life of Jesus, some twenty-six instances of prayer are mentioned.  Not many of his prayers have the words recorded for us, but every prayer that is recorded shows that Jesus uniformly prayer to His Father” (The Person and Life of Christ, 1983 Ft. Worth Lectures, page 118).  (3) The example and teaching in the early church seems to continue this pattern (Acts 4:24-30; Eph. 5:20; Phil. 4:6-7; Col. 1:3; 3:17).  (4) Church history also seems to demonstrate that prayers were addressed to the Father.  (a) Polycarp prayed, “O Lord almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed servant Jesus Christ… I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ…” (Early Christians Speak, Everett Ferguson, p. 139).  Polycarp was a bishop in Smyrna.  He was martyred Feb. 22, 156 A.D.  (b) Clement of Rome prayed, “we shall pray that the Creator of the Universe… through His beloved servant Jesus Christ… To you we offer praise through the high priest and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ…” (ibid).  Clement was a bishop in Rome and a contemporary of Polycarp.  (e) Ferguson summed it up saying, “God was the goal, Christ the Mediator, and the Holy Spirit the sphere in which the church prays.  Christian prayer was addressed commonly to God the Father” (ibid, p. 143-144).

Objections: (1) Acts 1:21-26.  Does “Lord” in verse 24 refer to Jesus as in verse 21?  (a) God clearly does know the hearts of men.  God selected David (1 Sam. 16:7).  This attribute, no doubt, is possessed by both the Father and the Son.  (b) The term ‘Lord’ is used of the Father in prayer (Acts 4:24, 29-30).  Is it not possible that such be the reference here?  (c) The only other use of knowing the heart is in Acts 15:8, where it refers to God (not the Holy Spirit v. 8.  Nor, likely Jesus v. 11).  (d) Jesus prayed to Father before selecting His special disciples (Luke 6:12-ff).  (2) Acts 7:54-60.  Stephen was seeing Jesus in a vision.  He was addressing Him, just as if He stood before Him.  (3) Acts 9:10-16.  Once more this is a vision.  Ananias is in communication with Jesus who’s appeared unto him, Acts 22:17-21.  This is two-way communication.  Jesus appeared unto Paul.  (5) Romans 10:12.  If “calling upon the name of the Lord” equals prayer, then one is saved in context by prayer.  This is not what this passage teaches.  Gary Workman, “To call on the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21 cf. 2:38; 9:14; 22:16 B.H.)… simply means to act in dependence on his word.  Vine’s says “to call upon the name of the Lord is to bow to His authority” (1983 Ft. Worth Lectures, p. 126).  (6) 1 Corinthians 16:22 (a) There is uncertainty as to the exact meaning of marantha.  J.W. Shepherd commented.  “This is an Aramaic expression on which scholars are not agreed as to whether it means ‘the Lord has come’ or ‘our Lord cometh’, or ‘Our Lord, come.’  With ‘our Lord cometh’ compare James 5:8; Revelation 1:7; 3:11 and this agrees with the context and the substance of the epistle.  If this be right, the saying is admonitory.  It warns them that at any moment they may have to answer for their shortcomings” (Gospel Advocate Commentary, p. 261).  (b) Therefore, it is far from certain that this is a prayer.  (7) 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.  (a) In spite of the Red letter editions, it is not absolute that ‘Lord’ refers to Jesus.  (b) Note: The literal language is not ‘my strength’ but ‘the strength’.  Gary Workman wrote, “It is probable that in verse 8 it was the Father… promising the power of Christ” (1983 Ft. Worth Lectures, p. 127).  (c) We know that in the next chapter prayer is addressed to God (2 Cor. 13:7).  (d) It would seem we should be very cautious and “extremely hesitant to used the earth/heaven conversations of an inspired man as any kind of example for us today (ibid, p. 127).  (8) 1 Timothy 1:12, the literal language is to have thanks, not to give thanks.  One can be thankful without formally entering into prayer.  Further, there is nothing which indicates that is a formal approach to Christ in prayer.  (9) Revelation 22:20, Gary Workman asks “Was John praying when he had a vision of the twenty-four elders and spoke with one of them (Rev. 7:13-14)?  Was he praying as he asked the strong angel for the little book (Rev. 10:8-9)?  “If John’s statements to Jesus while he was ‘in the spirit on the Lord’s day’ (Rev. 1:10)  was a prayer, then so were these other statements.  And we may therefore pray both to elders and angels!” (ibid, p. 125).

I know some of the above passages are difficult.  I know with absolute certainty that it is proper to pray to the Father.  The passages listed to justify praying to Jesus are not to me, passages which clearly teach such.


Various postures are mentioned in connection with prayer: (1) kneeling.  This is a common prayer posture (1 Kings 8:54; 2 Chr. 6:13; Psalm 95:6; Dan. 6:10; Acts 9:40; 20:36; 21:5; Eph. 3:14).  It is a position of submission and humility.  It is a position which was taken before kings (Gen. 41:42-43; Matt. 27:29).  We’re approaching The Most High!  (2) Head Bowed.  This position is also very common (Gen. 24:26, 48, 52; Ex. 4:31; 12:27; 34:8; 1 Chr. 29:20; 2 Chr. 20:18; 29:30; Neh. 8:6 Ps. 95:6; Luke 18:13).  This too is a position of humility (Luke 18:13).  This is a position taken before those in great authority (Gen. 37:7, 10; 43:28).  (3) Prostrate.  The I.S.B.E. describes it as “falling upon the knees, then gradually inclining the body until the forehead touched the ground (vol. 1, p. 60).  This posture is used in prayer (Matt. 26:39; 1 Kings 18:42 cf. James 5:17-18; Ezra 10:1), and in other appearances before God (Gen. 17:3; Num. 16:45; Josh. 7:6, 10).  This posture was also used before men (1 Sam. 25:23-f; 2 Kings 4:37; Esther 8:3; Mark 5:22; John 11:32).  The I.S.B.E. says, “Was common as an expression of profound reverence and humility before a superior or a benefactor” (ibid).  (4) Standing.  This is a very common prayer posture (1 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kings 8:22; Matt. 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, 13).  The I.S.B.E. says, “This was the most usual posture in prayer” (ibid).  (5) Eyes uplifted.  This posture is mentioned a few times (Luke 18:11; John 11:41; 17:1).  The idea seems to be looking above to the God who is above all.  Remember, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  (6) Arms raised/hands lifted.  This is also very common (Ex. 9:29, 33; 1 Kings 8:22, 54; 2 Chr. 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Neh. 8:6; Job. 11:13; Ps. 28:2; 63:4; 134:2; 141:2; Isa. 1:15; Lam. 3:41; 1 Tim. 2:8).  Dave Miller has written, “Lifting up outstretched hands expressed the fact that a request was being made.  The arms would be spread out with open upturned palms symbolic of the act of receiving (Piloting the Strait, p. 225).  Dave Miller goes on to say, “While various prayer postures are incidentally depicted in passing the divine record, the overwhelming emphasis is clearly on the attitude of the one praying and the appropriateness of the thought of prayer itself.  The posture of prayer appears to be of minimal concern and essentially optional” (ibid, p. 226).  Note: combinations of these postures were used a times.


The term “Amen” is a transliteration from Hebrews into Greek into English.  It does not mean “I like what you said.”  It does not mean “the end”.  It is translated by the KJV “verily” (100 times); “Amen” (78 times); “truth” (2 times); “so be it” (once).  Thayer indicates that the word means “to be firm”.  It can be used to affirm the truthfulness of something.  It can be used, and typically so in prayer, to mean “may it be true (fulfilled)”.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Prayer, Word Study, worship and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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