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The Word on the Week

Dáil Prayer

As one journalist put it; “That old chestnut of whether or not to commence the ‘daily hostilities’ with a nice prayer got another outing this week.” Thus our National Parliament allow themselves to be distracted from the affairs of state by the rights and wrongs of public prayer.
To pray or not to pray that is the question. As their tradition has it the whole assembly rise to their feet while prayer is uttered. However there are rebels in the pack. At least two left-wing lady deputies have indicated their intention to remain seated in protest. Will they be evicted from the chamber?

Whatever about the antics of Parliament what is it about prayer that creates such consternation? Its efficacy is not in doubt. When Moses held up his hands in prayer (with the assistance of Hur and Aaron) over the valley where the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites the forces of Israel prevailed but when his hands were lowered the battle turned in favour of the Amalekites. A more graphic picture of the power of prayer is hard to imagine (Exodus Chapter 17 verses 8 to 13).

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray it arose from observing their Master himself at prayer (St Luke Chapter 11 verse 1). Jesus responded with ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ which commences by addressing the Father and his desires before listing our basic needs for food, forgiveness of sins and protection from the evil one. A fuller version of the prayer is found in St Matthew Chapter 6 verses 7 to 15).

In the organisation of the Church after Pentecost we read of the appointment of Deacons to handle the practicalities of food distribution among widows. This had become a problem as it was taking up the Disciples time. The solution was agreed that the Deacons would handle practical matters so as to permit the Disciples time for prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts Chapter 6 verses 1 to 7). This is how most Christian Churches organise themselves today with prayer and preaching given special focus.

Perhaps the most powerful illustration of a prayer asking for forgiveness of those bent on killing you was uttered by Jesus on the cross. They did not realise he was the Messiah and Son of God. And this prayer was offered whilst the torture of crucifixion was actually taking place (St Luke Chapter 23 verse 34). It is probable that some of those who heard these words were among the 3,000 who were saved a few weeks later following St Peter’s preaching at Pentecost (Acts chapter 2 verses 36 to 41).

The most important prayer is probably the first spoken in faith from a repentant heart seeking forgiveness and trusting completely that it will be heard and answered. It does not have to be a long prayer nor do the words require to be out of the ordinary. But these are the prayers that start a new relationship. The person praying is declared to be right with God (St Luke Chapter18 verse 14).
Sadly it’s not the sort of prayer that you are likely to hear in the Dáil but it is one you can make in the quietness of your own room. And the Lord will hear and answer. Trust Him.