It was Saturday night. I’m about to go relax in a nice hot bath; its a good time for reading, meditating as well as getting clean. As is my ritual, I declare to my family, “Well, I’m going to have a bath and going to bed.”
Sinead is gathering her books to head to her room to read. Bronwyn is hanging out on the couch doing a puzzle. And Kellie is casually flipping through the channels to see if there is any thing worth watching.
All of a sudden, everyone’s plans change! Kellie happens upon a 1941 movie that she declares, “Everyone has to watch!”. We have all seen it before, but we all know that any attempt to sneak away would fail.
The movie? How Green Was My Valley.
The movie that inspired the name of Bronwyn Angharad, our second born. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie and we all happily hung around and watched it. One scene, however, jumped out at me.
Huw, the youngest boy in the family, who has been bed ridden all winter, gets carried out to the hills by the local minister, Mr. Gruffydd, to enjoy the spring blooms. While the two of them are sitting under a tree, Mr. Gruffydd says:
“You’ve been lucky, Huw. Lucky to suffer and lucky to spend these weary months in bed. For so God has given you a chance to make the spirit within yourself. And as your father cleans his lamp to have good light, so keep clean your spirit, huh?…By prayer, Huw. And by prayer, I don’t mean shouting, mumbling, and wallowing like a hog in religious sentiment. Prayer is only another name for good, clean, direct thinking. When you pray, think. Think well what you’re saying. Make your thoughts into things that are solid. In that way, your prayer will have strength, and that strength will become a part of you, body, mind, and spirit.”
This to me sums up biblical prayer the best I ever heard. Doing this, it is possible to “pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. Just as worship is not the group sing-a-long that happens on a Sunday morning but a way of life, so prayer is not the shouting, mumbling, and wallowing like a hog in religious sentiment of a prayer meeting.
Now before you get to upset, let me explain. Although worship is not defined as the corporate singing that occurs in a religious gathering, that singing can and should be done in worship. “Many Christian theologians have defined humanity as homo adorans, that is, the “worshipping human,” and thus the worship of God is at the very core of what it means to be human.” [wikipedia] All of a Christian’s life is to be worship. Everything we do is to be done as devotion to God. So by limiting our definition of worship to an event, we loose focus of worship as a lifestyle.
The same holds for prayer. We are to ‘pray without’ ceasing and we are to ‘in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God’.[1 Thessalonians 5:17; Philppians 4:6]. We are not to pray in the open so that we are seen by men, but are to pray in out inner space to Father in secret. [Matthew 6:5,6]
Like worship, this does not negate corporate prayer. However, it is my conviction that corporate prayer is mainly a prayer of agreement of what has already been prayed in secret. Or it is meeting of the minds to try and determine the mind of God so that we can then go into our inner space to pray in secret.
Even when Jesus was praying in the garden on the eve of his crucifixion, he brought three of his disciples to ‘keep watch with him’. They were there, I believe as spiritual support, but the fact is Jesus went a little beyond them and prayed in secret.
I am not saying that we should not pray together. After all, every conversation, email correspondence, every exchange of comments to a posted note becomes a form of corporate prayer as long as we are practicing good, clean, direct thinking.