The latest 9Marks journal includes an insightful article about the importance of corporate prayer for the church.
What caught my attention, however, were the objections this pastor received for leading his church to begin this practice:
He felt our prayer times in the morning service were already long. They detract from the music team’s ability to get into a rhythm, and disrupt the worship experience. I’ve had others suggest it may foster legalism, by giving people something else they feel they must do.
What does it say about us when prayer is contrasted with worship? What does it say when worship identified more with the rhythm of the music than it is with prayer? What does it say when prayer is seen as a hindernace to this kind of “worship” rather than integral to worship?
Or what does it say about our comprehension of the gospel when a corporate gathering of prayer is seen as legalism because it implies that prayer is something that we must do? As if it were legalism to recognize that prayer is commanded of God for his people.
Luther, hardly a legalist, wrote:
You should pray and you should know that you are bound to pray by divine command. . . . You have been commanded to give honor to God’s Name, to call upon him, and pray to him, and this is just as much a command as the other commandments, “You shall not kill,” and so on. LW 51:169.
Luther did not see this as debilitating legalism. Rather he saw the command to pray as liberating:
Therefore, since it is commanded that we pray, do not despise prayer and take refuge behind your own unworthiness. Take an example from other commands. A work which I do is a work of obedience. Because my father, master, or prince has commanded it, I must do it, not because of my worthiness, but because it has been commanded. So it is also with prayer. So, when you pray for wife or children or parents or the magistrates, this is what you should think: This work I have been commanded to do and as an obedient person I must do it. On my account it would be nothing, but on account of the commandment it is a precious thing. LW 51:170.
I should conclude by noting that perhaps the people cited by the pastor were young believers. Or perhaps they thought better of what they said afterwards. The point is not to critique those people, as they seem to have an undershepherd who is shepherding them. The point of this post is for myself and those who read it to reflect on these ideas for our own edification and, if need be, correction.