Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014 “The Convergence”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” (Matthew 23:14)

Good morning Dear Ones!

In one sense, it’s hard for me to realize that I have been an ordained pastor for nearly 39 years now…but it’s true. I graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA in 1975. Yep…that does equal 39 years…the same as Jack Benny’s perpetual age (some of you will remember him-cultural reference). I enjoyed living in Pittsburgh, and visiting “The Point.” The “Point” was the location of the convergence of two rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, where they merged to form the Ohio River. From any vantage point, it was an impressive sight. So why am I referencing this in today’s thoughts on prayer? Actually, the inspiration comes from a quote by one of my favorite theologians, Oswald Chambers. He said this of prayer:

“Learn to be vicarious in public prayer. Allow two rivers to come through you: the river of God, and the river of human interests. Beware of the danger of preaching in prayer, of being doctrinal.” 

Most of us know that one of the definitions of the word “Vicarious” is to “live” someone else’s experience in our own mind. For example, a would-be athlete may imagine himself or herself as a sports hero who really has succeeded. When I was a kid, I imagined myself as Mickey Mantle, hitting the winning home run in a world series game, living ‘vicariously” through his success. That’s one definition of the word. but there is another, more primary definition. “Vicarious” also means “performed, exercised, received, or suffered in place of another”.When Chambers suggests that we learn to be vicarious in public prayer, he is speaking to the preacher in me. He is saying that there is a tendency, at times, to make praying preaching. It’s much more of an issue in public prayer than in private prayer. When you are praying alone, it is naturally more conversational. Public prayer, however, lends itself more to the temptation of the one praying to continue a theme to try to make a point than to actually pray with empathy. He is suggesting that as we pray in public, we not get “preachy”. Rather, we connect with God while being sensitive to those around us as well. Those are the “two rivers” to which he refers. Praying like that is not done for show. It is unpretentious. That was the problem Jesus addressed with the Pharisees in no uncertain terms. Their praying was more about them than it was about God. Be vicarious in your public praying. Be genuine. Be unpretentious. All those two river…the river of God and the river of human interests, to flow through and converge to form one glorious stream. Let’s pray!

Holy Lord God; bring a convergence of compassion and Christ-centered prayer to our conversations with you, both in private and in public. teach us to pray like that, lord, we ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen!



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