My Thoughts. . .
“Let us pray.” If you grew up going to “church,” you have heard that phrase countless times. Most knew it was a signal to bow one’s head until the “Amen” was stated. Although most believers know that prayer is offered to God the Father, we have been taught that it must indirectly go through Jesus our mediator. Therefore, tradition requires before the “Amen” that the person offering the prayer must say, “In Jesus’ name.” or an equivalent before ending it. If the reader has ever heard someone lead a prayer but end it without saying those three words, it seemed to make that prayer a vain exercise. One might remark that “it takes the ‘worship’ out of ‘prayer.’”
Most people believe that every action involved in their “church service” is the way first century believers did it. Amazingly, some “church goers” do not know what worship is. Some have a “hand-me-down” faith. Because parents, grandparents, kin, and friends have practiced something for several generations, that guarantees it is “biblical” in their thinking. This fault is found in all churches.
Must one end a prayer with “in the name of Jesus” or “Christ” for that prayer to be valid? The Jerusalem church’s prayer in Acts 4:23-31 does not contain that ending nor is an “Amen” mentioned. Those who read the passage assume those actions are there and mentally add them to it. No one insists that the Jerusalem church’s prayer is invalid because that ending fails to be there. Why not? Luke’s inclusion is there because he was inspired. The New Testament fails to give us a “church prayer” being offered where they end with “in the name of Jesus”? If a prayer is without God’s authority if it does not end with those words, then the Jerusalem church prayed in an unscriptural or invalid way. When someone today criticizes a prayer without that familiar ending, he is being critical of the Holy Spirit who filled those brethren to pray without that traditional ending. If one would not criticize the Holy Spirit, he should not be negative to one who is following the example of the prayer of brethren in the first century. If we believe that the Bible must be our authority for everything we do “in church,” then either 1) we are guilty of ignoring our own rule, 2) the Bible allows us to ignore some rules which God has demanded and this is one of them, 3) we may deem a Bible example to be invalid for us due to cultural changes, or 4) the biblical example is not a “binding” example, it is just an incident that happened. Of course, if we select one of those rules, then we are obligated to show how it does not apply to Acts 4:23-31 or Acts 20:7 and other such passages.
Some believe it is a sin to address Jesus personally in prayer. We are told that all requests are to be directed to the Father, NEVER the Son. Although family, friends, and followers could converse with Jesus until his ascension, after that event, we are informed that all personal conversations stopped. Someone may ask, “What about Stephen addressing Jesus in Acts 7? Some discount this as a “prayer” and redefine it as a “conversation.” We are also told that it was offered during the day of miracles. If we cannot perform miracles, we cannot pray as Stephen did. Strange, I have always thought a prayer was having a conversation with God.
It is strange that one cannot speak directly to Jesus, whether it is called a conversation or a prayer, and say, “Thank you.” We are told that the individual must 1) speak directly to the Father, 2) make his request only to the Father, and 3) the Father turns and delivers the “thanks” to Jesus. If that is so, that would make the Father the intercessor between the one who prays and Jesus. 1) The person prays through Jesus. 2) He ignores the intercessor and puts his “thanks” in the hands of the Father through the work of the intercessor. 3) The Father turns to Jesus and informs him he has been “thanked” by the one who offered that “Thank you” through him (Jesus). 4) Supposedly the intercessor (Jesus) does not know that the “Thank you” is for him, but faithfully delivers the message, conversation, or prayer to the Father. 5) Before the action is ended, the Father informs Jesus that the “Thank you” is for him. 6) Jesus finally learns he has been thanked by the one who said the prayer. 7) Jesus asks the Father, “Why didn’t the person just say, ‘Thank you’ to me as his intercessor rather than going at it in this round-about-way?” 8) The Father reminds Jesus that once he ascended back to heaven, it became a sin for a person to speak directly to him. It would be an invalid prayer if he said anything at all to the intercessor!
Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, expel a deep sigh and then announce, “Let us bow your heads and pray.”