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David Otten: On the subject of prayer, both private and public

By David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 6/1/2018 12:17 PM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

Prayer has always been a blessing to each Christian and to the church.

Prayer is an act of worship and could be described as the "breathing" of the church. Our prayers are never perfect. The Spirit carries our prayers to our Father and for the sake of Christ they are heard and honored.

Faith is part of prayer. Think of a child talking to his father trusting that Papa will listen and help. Prayer is done privately and publicly. In both cases prayers are an act of worship being offered to God, but there are differences that need to be respected.

Private prayer is between you and God and others you invite into your prayer closet. It is very subjective and focused more on you. God wants to hear about your entire life: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You may use a prayer list or just what comes to you at that time. Any posture is OK as well if it silent or spoken.

Public prayer has a number of distinctions that need to be honored and respected. Public prayer in a state setting, i.e. military, your hometown, or an inauguration of a President, is a prayer requested for a specific concern. Private issues would not be expected or desired.

The state cannot tell you how to write the prayer, but they can disinvite you. You must keep in mind that this is a privilege, not a right. There may be people of diverse faiths -- Christian, non-Christian and even atheists. You are to care for all and respect the nature of the request. The event is not about you or your faith. If you cannot honor the request, then decline the invitation. All should be able to say "Amen" to the prayer.

In a church setting there are other concerns: Liturgical/congregational prayer is communal and some way global; there is unity within the prayer of all who pray; and the concerns are the concerns of all in the body of Christ.

What are some of these concerns? They are praise and thanksgiving for God's blessings, the leaders of the church, the church's Gospel mission, the struggles of young churches, nations and peoples of the world, peace, schools, homes, economic and cultural life, for all sorts of conditions of people and with the anticipation of joining those in the Church Triumphant.

Because it is public prayer not all private issues can be spoken without permission. They may want your prayers, but they may not want everyone knowing their business.

Prayer is never to be underestimated, though many do. It is there for us anytime and as the body of Christ it is a sweet incense ascending to the heavens and reflects the will of our heavenly Father. Silent or spoken, created on the spot or from a prayer book we pray in faith and the Spirit sanctifies it. Pray! God is listening. Amen.

• David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.