Saturday, March 14, 2009

Old Testament Informal Worship...Prayer?!

Prayer- The Conversation of Worship

Prayer in the Old Testament is rooted deep within earliest expressions of faith (Gen 4:26). As a form of communication with God, it was for the people of Israel rooted deeply within the covenant and is offered on the assumption that God hears and answers prayer (Jer. 33:3). Although we do see times of disappointment and anxiety when prayers go unheard (Pss 35: 22-23). Psalm 66: 18-20 gives us insight into prayer and the important of prayer in the worship of Israel. Prayer in the OT is used both as a model of private devotion and public corporate worship. It is however seen as an expression of an intimate and personal relationship between God and His people. Therefore unconfessed sin getting in the way of this. Isa. 1:15 gives a stark warning about prayer ‘When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood.’

Main Passage: 1 Kings 8:23-53 Solomon’s Prayer

What do we learn about Prayer as a form of worship here?

Thomson says Prayer is made enabled because of the relationship that exists when God created man in his image. Along with this enablement, however comes a certain level of personal responsibility. Because the challenge of reflecting God is all encompassing-not limited to religious aspects but to every instance of life- there are clear links between how one lives and the prayers that is one is able to pray (Jer.11: 14). Solomon expressed all these factors in his prayer at the dedication of the temple.

Although this is said in the temple and is maybe not informal worship what Solomon prays here is important because he highlights the central role that prayer plays in the life of Israel. In many ways King Solomon prayer is a actually a prayer about prayer.

Solomon shows us 3 clear foundations of how to approach God in prayer:

1. The reputation of God (1 Kgs. 8:15-19a, 21-23)

The reputation of God as a basis for assurance in prayer is grounded firmly in Israel’s view of history. The understanding of God’s interaction with previous generations gave Israel a confidence and understanding of how he relates to us. Solomon builds off the perspective that God can be seen in the light of what he has done for (in his case his father) previous generations and it is from this that gives meaning to prayer.

2. The promises of God (1 Kgs. 8:19b-20, 24-26, 53-61)

What one thing was at the very heart of all covenants?

At the heart of every covenant is relationship and it is this that Solomon is focused upon here. He reforces that we can live in future confidence of God’s covenantal relationships because of what he has done in the past.

3. Character of God (1 Kgs. 8:27-52)

Solomon outlined several occasions when we might approach the temple to pray. The occasions themselves serve to portray God as great and incomparable and yet involved in the lives of His people. Nowhere is the tension between God’s grace and justice evident than in prayer. We must never forget the lavishness’ of God’s grace before bodily going before him in prayer.

Hannah’s Prayer in Samuel is a great example of this theology that Solomon lays out here of prayer being put into the personal devotional life of his believers. Hannah’s two prayers are two distinctive examples of experiencing God in prayer at two completely different poles of life, unrelenting sorrow and unspeakable joy. Hannah displays exactly what Solomon was talking about.

We see here that prayer is a legitimate form of worship both in the public corporate life but also in the individual private life.

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