Drawing the Lines Too Tight on Prayer

Carly Fiorina made all the news four years ago when Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors fired her as CEO. Until that moment, she had been one of the brightest stars in the corporate world. Her memoir, “Tough Choices,” written in 2006 (and which I purchased last Sunday for a dollar in a discount bin at my neighborhood Dollar Tree), tells the fascinating tale.

I recommend this well-written book for women in business, but for anyone interested in learning about leadership. The insights are worth a semester in any leading business program.

At the height of her frustration with HP’s board, Fiorina writes, “I steeled myself for what lay ahead. Once again I began saying the Lord’s Prayer every night, over and over again, just as I had as a little girl.”

That stopped me in my tracks.

I was pleased to see this industry leader who had not long before been named by a national magazine as the most powerful woman in business on her knees, seeking the help of Almighty God.

And yet, I found myself wondering about her praying the Lord’s Prayer again and again. She is an articulate woman and has no trouble phrasing her thoughts and expressing her mind. Why would she pray that prayer–which I’m all in favor of–but not speak to the Lord in her own words?

She didn’t say, and I’ll leave it there, except for one thing: I affirm her. If praying the Lord’s Prayer works for her, then fine.

I am not sent to tell people whose prayers are accepted and whose are not.

You have no idea how liberating that is.

Some years back, one of our denomination’s evangelists created a ruckus when he said at a rally, “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” Unless you lived through that time, you can hardly imagine the uproar that caused once it was reported by the national press.

His explanation as I recall–going strictly from memory here–was that according to the New Testament, prayers must be offered in Jesus’ name only.

And yet, as strongly as I believe in coming to the Father in the name of Jesus, the Bible does not preclude prayers from approaching the throne when not prayed in His name.

The Father is Sovereign. God decides for Himself what prayers He will hear and He has not laid down rules so hard and fast as some of us would have preferred.

As a matter of fact, when the evangelist made that statement, more than a few believers familiar with their Bibles responded with Peter’s declaration in Acts 10. As soon as this apostle discovered that God had called Cornelius the Italian centurion to Himself and had not sought the permission of anyone to do it, Peter exclaims, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

We must be careful not to build a full-fledged theology around that isolated statement, but whatever else it does, it should warn us off the tendency to define too closely whose prayers God does and does not hear. He’s the Lord; He will decide and, He will be glad to note, we shall let Him.

Interestingly, the situation at the time Peter made this discovery was exactly the opposite: Jews had been insisting that God did not hear the prayers of anyone but card-carrying members of their group. Peter learned otherwise that day.

“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” If that assertion from Psalm 115:3 is not a primary consideration in your theological understanding of the Heavenly Father, then I suggest you add it. It’ll come in handy for all those times when God does the unexpected without asking your permission or without seeking denominational approval.

Before leaving this subject, a further word about praying in Jesus’ name is needed here.

I have tried to hold the line on this over the years, and have consistently turned down invitations to pray at functions where I was told to “make your prayer inclusive.” That is code for “don’t pray in Jesus’ name.” My reaction is, “Thank you, but I’ll pass.”

I have championed–and still do–people like Franklin Graham and Rick Warren who when invited to pray at major public events offer up prayers in their usual way, that is, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But one thing needs to be said on this subject which cautions us from excluding those who do not pray as we think they should: there are many prayers throughout the New Testament not offered in Jesus’ name.

At this point, our reader(s) will respond, “In the name of Jesus is not referring just to those few words. It means to come in the power and person of Jesus, based on His salvation through the cross.”

I agree. And that’s my point. It is not necessary to use the words every time. Paul didn’t, and I for one will not be telling the greatest apostle that the Lord God does not hear his prayers!

Having said that Carly Fiorina’s repeated use of the Lord’s Prayer as her night-time plea was fine with me, I need to point out that that’s not entirely the case. I would encourage her to speak to the Father personally, through Jesus Christ, of course, and tell Him what’s on her heart.

What I mean is that I will not be making any judgments on whether the Lord in Heaven heard her prayer. That’s up to Him, and whatever He decides is fine with me. (I know He’s so pleased to hear that!)

After all, it was said of all of us: “We do not know how to pray as we should.” (Romans 8:26)

That too must be a major plank in my prayer platform.

“Lord, teach us to pray. And while you’re at it, teach us to appreciate and encourage the prayers of others, no matter how unsatisfying they may seem to us. Amen.”

Oops, sorry.

“In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

3 thoughts on “Drawing the Lines Too Tight on Prayer

  1. Bro. Joe,

    I have heard from a friend, a former intercessor for the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, that Pastor Jim Cymbala is often told the same thing and that he has turned down requests to preach and for the choir to sing, when they are asked not to sing certain songs.

    Thank you for your stand for Jesus.

    “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NKJV

  2. Joe, I am not sure you are aware that Carly Fiorina was a part of this year’s “Leadership Summit”. She had been a speaker a few years ago, but returned. Bill Hybels made the comment that she, since having been there last, had accepted Christ into her life.

    I suspect that her saying the Lord’s prayer was prior to this. She was full of grace at the summit presentation. Wow.

    God has used the summit for evangelism and several high profile leaders have grown in their faith.


  3. just have to have faith that you are a real person

    that you are a good person

    and that only the lord understands why we have not met\\

    I bleve you have my best interst at heart and that the lord has touched your soul and for this

    Thank you for your prayer for the lord is my light and my salvation by christ stripes I am healed believing in a miracle for the return of my purse drivers lisc keys unemployment keys etc

    for my healing mother healing nephew healing sister healing

    through god all things are possilbe and believe in miracles

    thank you is not enough with sincere gratitude and appreciation

    gods daughter who blessed by many prayers to help her in her time of need

    god bless you

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