Some years ago, Harvest Bible Chapel (where I was on staff during some of my seminary years) was having a prayer emphasis, and I ended up in a relatively short prayer meeting with an older man and some others. The man prayed an elegant prayer, in old English style with Thee’s and Thou’s; and after he was finished, he received a compliment or two on the beauty of his prayer. Of course, I don’t know where the man’s heart was, and it’s not my job to find out, but at the time, I sensed an element of pride. Now, I don’t claim to be a super discerning person, so maybe it was just the prayer itself that led me to think that.
There is nothing inherently wrong with praying in old “King James” English, but there is nothing necessary about it either. It’s nice to listen to, I suppose, like a poetry reading, but the obvious drawback with such a prayer is that a new believer can be intimidated and feel that public prayer (and maybe other kinds of prayer) is beyond him or her. That’s a bad thing…a really bad thing.
I contrast such elegant prayers with the little quote from Luther above: what matters is not that people are impressed with us, or our prayers – what matters is that God hears and answers. This principle works for the length of a public prayer also. I have enjoyed and profited from “long prayers” in the past. I think of the church we attended in Scotland and how the pastor prayed for 5 – 10 minutes every service. I really felt that he brought us into the throne room of God. But in general, long public prayers just lead me to daydreaming, to start thinking about what’s for lunch.
I’ve applied my thinking on this when praying publicly – I don’t think it’s necessary to pray a long prayer, or a fancy, impressive prayer – what’s necessary is to pray a prayer that God hears and answers. If that is accomplished, then I think we have accomplished what we really came for.