Doctrinal forms imposed on others, without them having been instilled into the spirit of man by the spirit of God may serve as a deadening substitute for real life. It works much the same as giving a second grader a high mathematical formula to be memorized and repeated, but it has no connection with the life of the pupil. It is to others a gem of learning, but to the second grader it is merely a load. It does not add anything to the pupil's life. It does not give any real help.
And so it is in things divine. It is far better — yea, the only normal way for the disciple (learner) to blunder along slowly rather than to have imposed on him more than he can assimilate. It is far, far, better for the pupil to hold erroneous ideas for a while, if maintaining a teachable attitude, than for him to receive and memorize formulas that to him is incomprehensible. The imposition of doctrinal forms above what has been assimilated has made out of thousands of believers harsh sectarian contenders of credal correctness, and has brought the inner spiritual life into a state of stagnation. This condition is the ideal breeding ground of dissension and strife — and there is plenty of it.
Let us remember that even the most vital, the most fundamental, the most imperatively important divine truths can be made into "petrified dogmatism." Then let us give each saint a chance to develop and grow normally. It is not hothouse plants we want, but natural, normal and spiritual believers. Real life always makes its own forms, it needs no artificial pressure.
"Petrified Dogmatism" can consist of pure divine truth, and it can be made up of fallacies and philosophies of men. It depends on the mind and heart that holds it what it is to that person. — Lest we forget.
1. Anything and everything that does not edify should not
be permitted. "Let all things be done unto edifying."— V. 26.
2. Any expression, in order to edify, must be made so the hearers can understand what is said. This includes "tongues," prayer and "prophecy." All should be expressed in such a way that any and all may be able to fly "Amen" — v. 16.
In order to accomplish this what is said must be:
1. Loud enough. — How tiresome it is when one who is speaking or leading in prayer mumble in a low tone so only a few can hear what he says. One who prays or speaks should always turn his face to the audience.
2. Clear language. Anyone who is not capable of using the language used in the meeting so as to be well understood should not take part in prayer. Paul is clear on this in our chapter, He says that, "if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me." — V. 11. Even the best start to a good meeting can be spoiled by an unintelligible prayer.
3. Brevity. - When unduly length is added to poor language then it is sure to kill the spirit of the meeting. Even if the language is good, public prayers should not be long—if it is not a prayer meeting. The Master said that, "when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the nations do, for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking." — Mt. 6:7. Too often there is a monotonous repetition of the same phrases, the same requests, the same thanksgivings. Personal prayer habits, used in secret, should not be imposed on meetings. Such habits may be perfectly proper in secret, but not in public.
4. Prayer with praise and thanksgiving, but not lecturing God or man. — This is one of the most distressing habits of some when praying in public. I know a certain D. D., a very capable teacher, but his prayers are something so indefinable that one cannot say what it is. It is partly teaching God and partly recounting of past history, partly instructions to men, partly personal experiences, etc. All such are out of place in public prayer. The needs of the meeting, and if personal needs have been expressed, are the only things that should be presented to God, also praying according to 1 Tim. 2:1-3.
Again "Let all things be done unto, edifying!"
E. A. Larson Last updated 20.11.2005