Monday, March 5, 2012

The Proper Way to Pray

In 1620, the Speedwell joined with the Mayflower and left for the new world. The two ships sailed out together, but the Speedwell sprang a leak 300 miles out to sea. The problem forced the expedition to return to England. When repairs failed to fix the Speedwell, everyone was crammed aboard the other ship and the journey was resumed.

The Mayflower was a sizable cargo ship for its time, but was never intended for 101 passengers plus crew. Needless to say, their seven weeks at sea were a horrible experience. The colonists were lodged in a small area between decks with no fresh air, no running water, and only buckets for sanitary facilities. They could not bathe or wash their clothes. The pilgrims weren’t sailors and the sea was rough, so many of them were terribly seasick. Can you imagine the smell? On top of that, the sailors were godless men who ridiculed and laughed at the pilgrims in their misery.

Four weeks out in the mid-Atlantic they were struck by a fierce storm. The pilgrims were bounced around in the bottom of the ship. Then there was a great cracking sound, and the sailors threw open the hold and saw the Pilgrims lying in a filthy tangle of broken bones. The captain raised a lantern and saw that the cross beam supporting the main sail was cracked. If it gave way, the mast would fall and the Mayflower would capsize and sink. The captain, being a practical man, soon gave up all hope of being saved.

When word of their impending doom reached the ears of William Bradford, the leader of the pilgrims, he bowed his head and prayed this prayer: “Yet, Lord, thou canst save.” And all the Pilgrims said, “Amen.” The captain and sailors were stunned. That was it? That was all of their prayer?

While the seamen stood scratching their heads, one of the colonists, Elder Brewster, a printer by trade, placed his printing press under the cracked beam, and the huge screw was cranked up under the cracked beam. It held just long enough for them to reach shore.

That account reminds me of a poem I once read:  

     "The proper way for a man to pray," said deacon Lemuel Keyes,
     "And the only proper attitude is down upon his knees."
     "No, I should say the way to pray," said preacher Doctor Wise,

     "Is standing straight, with outstretched arms, and rapt and turned up eyes."
     "Oh, no, no, no" said elder Snow, "such posture is too proud;

     A man should pray with eyes fast closed, and head contritely bowed."
     "It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front

     With both thumbs pointing toward the ground," said the preacher, Doctor Blunt.
     "Las' year I fell in Hodkins' well head-first," said Cyrus Brown,

     "With both my heels a sticken' up, and my head a-pointin' down,
     An' I made a prayer right then and there – best prayer I ever said.
     The prayin'est prayer I ever prayed was a-standin' on my head."

Personally, I can relate to Cyrus Brown. He realized full well that when you are in trouble, you pray! The proper way to pray though has nothing to do with the way in which we hold our hands, or the amount of words we use. All that He desires is that we humble ourselves and put "us" aside BEFORE we turn to Him.

To illustrate God’s concern, Jesus related this account in Luke 18:10-14,
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

Certainly God cares about our problems ... and has already promised to meet our needs, if we are willing to deny ourselves and approach him in all humility.

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