In Spirit and in Truth (III)

There once was a little girl who would memorize and say long, complicated prayers with big words. One day someone asked her: “Sally, what does ‘Bountiful goodness’ mean?”
“It means,” she declared proudly, “that I am half way through my prayer!”
There is a difference, of course, between saying a prayer and praying a prayer. Well-meaning people will often say: “I believe in prayer.” Perhaps it would be better to say, “I believe in God.” Prayer, after all, can be addressed to any number of idols and false gods. Their prayers will fall flat because the one to whom they pray is not God.
Prayer in the assembly is fraught with traps. That’s not my observation, it’s the Lord’s.
“And when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men”
“And when you pray, don’t keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:5,7).
A public prayer’s success is not measured by the number of people who are impressed; it is based on the God who hears. God is not persuaded to answer on the basis of our fine vocabulary, but on the basis of his mercy and love! And prayer is not to be viewed as a work of merit, as if the longer one prays, the more blessings one attains. Think about it. The very act of prayer ?- seeking God’s guidance and strength ?- is an act that admits our dependence on him!
We pray because his goodness is, indeed, bountiful!

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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