The Rule of Prayer Is the Rule of Faith
Worship leaders today struggle with unity in the worship experience of their parishioners. Many of them buy into the consumer-culture of contemporary society and structure services around the preferences of the various age groups and cultural divisions of their congregations. My premise is that the leaders of the early church faced the same problems, not with a ‘youth culture’ as many churches today face, but with a pluralistic world. People were being saved out of every pagan religion as well as out of Judaism. Paul calls the strife between these groups “walls of hostility” (Eph 2:14-22). Too often this hostility exists today between groups in one congregation which foster different tastes in music. We could call this syndrome, “the rule of style.” If we do, we could also say, “the rule of style is the rule of strife.”
Doxology Determines Doctrine
But the leaders of the early church took a different approach. As early as the third century the tactic had been crystallized into a maxim, Lex orandi, lex credendi est –the rule of prayer is the rule of faith. In other words, doxology (proper praise) determines doctrine (proper belief). This turns our modern thinking on its head. Pentecostal worship leaders, both pastors and pastoral musicians, have generally operated under the opposite assumption–“When people believe the truth, they will pray the truth and praise God correctly.” This could be stated as “doctrine determines doxology.” This is no doubt true, but does it constitute a method of personal discipleship or public worship?
To my thinking it is passive, placing belief before action. Some sanctuaries are filled with people who are passively waiting for the Spirit of God to move so they can respond with expressions of praise and worship without fear of being ‘in the flesh.” Other buildings are filled each time the congregations meet with the manifest presence of God because the people have been taught to enter into praise as an obedient sacrifice unto the Lord. They are proactive worshipers, expressing what they believe in ancient words before they feel anything. Their words and actions (prayer) spring from their beliefs (faith)–they pray what they believe. Then, as the Lord moves in the service, they are affirmed in what they believe, “I confessed that the Lord is here and then I felt His presence.” –they believe what they prayed. The rule of prayer is the rule of faith.
The Rule of Prayer as Discipleship, Worship and Witness
The Holy Spirit is concerned with our progress as believers. There are three basic arenas where progress is made: (1) in the Secret Place, (2) in Public Worship, (3) and in our Daily Craftsmanship as men and women of God. When I wrote about prayer in the first century (Fire and Form #108) and about prayer as taught by Jesus and the Apostles (Fire and Form #’s 104, 105) I established that praying the scriptures was a common and important part of the prayer-lives of the first followers of Jesus. Reciting scriptures as prayer, as well as adapting and paraphrasing them, is returning to the contemporary church.
This ancient form of prayer moves us forward in faith. We all know that “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17 NKJV). In the prayer closet and in the sanctuary we need to hear the Word of God in our ears by our own mouths! In the Secret Place, we need to rehearse the revelation of who the Bible says God is. To have a larger vision of God, pray the scriptures that describe Him! In the Public Place we need to proclaim with the saints the manifold wisdom of God. We have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light for that very purpose. In the marketplace and the workplace we need to proclaim with our attitudes and actions, our character and conduct that we confess Christ. We live by the principles of another Kingdom as the works of our hands, the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts proclaim the excellence of our King every day.
By the rule of prayer, by singing and praying what we all believe at home, at church and with the quiet eloquence of holiness at work, the walls of hostility between us will begin to crumble. Youth will connect with the aged, black with white, rich with poor, and learned with unlearned because we hold our beliefs in common and we express them with prayers that we all hold in common, even if the sound of music is different.
Our predecessors, the worship leaders of the ancient church, had the joy of seeing the Lord make “one holy nation” out of Jews and Greeks, rich and poor, slave and free. One of the methods they used was the “rule of prayer is the rule of faith.” They used the scriptures and they also used confessions and creeds. Protestants sometimes fear creeds as Roman Catholic or high church, but they were used by the fathers long before the church was Romanized or otherwise divided. Scholars believe the New Testament itself contains common confessions, perhaps as hymns, known to believers throughout the ancient world. As Pentecostals we need not shrink back from confessions in worship. They are a part of God’s plan for building the local church as a community of faith. We do not confess the Apostles’ Creed, the Doxology, or the Gloria Patri to gain God’s favor, but to reaffirm our common faith and doctrines. We need worship content that is not generational.
So if you need to believe for something from God or if your congregation needs to grasp a Word from the Lord for this time and place, lead them in the confession of that truth. We believe what we have prayed.
 For a detailed, biblical analysis of this approach to public worship leadership see my article “Greeks at Nine; Jews at Eleven” at http://www.forallnations.com/ViewArticle.cfm?id=1153&category=article.
 Tom Richstatter, “General and Introductory Materials, Part 3 Theological Issues” chapter 32, The Axiom: Lex Orandi, [on-line]; available from http://www.tomrichstatter.org/d%20Documents/d32lexor.htm; Internet; accessed April 2004.
 “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.” This is one of the most ancient and effective confessions of the church as it reveres God as a Trinity. All heresy begins with a dissolution of the Trinity. The ancients believe it necessary to confess the Trinitarian nature of God often
Dr. Steve Phifer received a Doctorate in Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. He has taught at Valley Forge University and Southeastern Assemblies of God University. For many years he was the Worship Pastor at Word of Life Church in Alexandria, VA.
More of Dr. Phifer’s materials can be found at stevephifer.com.