Praying In Public

Should Christians Pray In Public?

There is no doubt that the issue of public prayer has been a large one in the Christian community. I'm not talking about prayer in public schools, which is another issue altogether. I'm talking about a Christian family who sits down to a table at a restaurant, or even a single Christian in a large cafeteria, or other similar situations. Not everyone feels awkward praying in public among non-Christians, and not everyone even does so. I feel that it is an important enough issue to write a hub about, and having had a few awkward situations myself, I would like to offer my own opinion on the issue and share with others how my family has handled it based on what the Bible itself tells us about prayer.

What Does The Bible Tell Us?

It appears that today's Christian has two options when it comes to public prayer: to pray in public, or to pray in private.

OPTION 1: Praying in Public

1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "pray continually" or "pray without ceasing." Therefore, isn't this a direct command to pray in public places? If we are to pray continually this means we should pray in public without any fear of what others think or do, because God can protect us. This is one way to think about public prayer. We should always be praying, no matter when or where, or who is watching. The point is, God is always watching, and He's the only one whose opinion matters.

OPTION 2: Praying in Private

There is another verse in the Bible that gives us more to think about than just to pray continually. Matthew 6: 5 says, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." When you think about this very important verse, it now seems like the best option is to not pray in public, but to say a private prayer to yourself before you leave the car or enter the cafeteria. After all, you don't want to be like the Pharisees who made it obvious to everyone but God that they were Christians, thereby showing that the only opinion they didn't care about was God's.

OPTION 3: Praying Privately in Public

So, it isn't that you can't pray in public if you don't want to. It's just that you must do it for the right reason, but Matthew 6: 5 certainly gives you a second option if public prayer causes self-consciousness. Some people have difficulty thinking about the prayer itself and God, rather than all the people staring in their direction while they are praying. The entire purpose of prayer is to be focused on God, and therefore, praying in public is difficult at the best of times to people who are very self-conscious. Therefore, I would suggest a third option, that seems to be the best of both worlds. I believe that it is possible to pray privately in public. We are told to pray without ceasing, but nowhere in the Bible does it ever tell us to close our eyes. Sure, it's a good idea if you want to stay focused on the speaker (or God, if you're the speaker). But it isn't necessary. If you've got to close your eyes whenever you pray, and pray without ceasing, then you'd never be able to open your eyes. So why not pray with your eyes open while being totally focused on God and your prayer? I don't imagine that God is going to be mad at anyone for praying with their eyes open. It's kind of like a dad being angry at his daughter for not kneeling before him whenever she speaks. It sounds a bit ridiculous considering that God sent his only son to die for us. How could that same God be angry at us for talking to Him "the wrong way"? I'm not saying that we shouldn't humble ourselves before Him and speak to our Creator in the most respectful way possible. I just don't believe that praying with your eyes open violates any of those things.

There are your options. My family prefers to pray in the car before we enter a restaurant, because we can pray aloud without worrying about anything, and enter the place thinking about how blessed we are to even be able to eat out. Perhaps you'll find the option that's best for you, and come closer to God as a result. No matter what you choose, one thing is for certain: God wants you to come closer to Him, no matter how you choose to do so.

P.S. Bless This Food

As a side note, I've heard some interesting opinions on the thought of praying about food at all (most of which, I might add, I don't really agree with, but all of which gave me quite a chuckle). Here's an interesting prayer that pretty much says it all:

"Dear God, thank you for this food. Lord, bless this complete trash that we are about to eat so that it may somehow nourish our bodies, and so that we might enjoy it and continue eating such good-tasting food without the need for a more healthy diet. Amen."

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Comments 27 comments

thooghun profile image

thooghun 8 years ago from Rome, Italy

Nice hub and well written.

The issue of praying seems to be a delicate one, my family makes a huge social issue of it. Personally, I find the form of a prayer should be guided by intentions rather than structure. Not everyone has access to the bible, or similar referential material.

You'd think that my being an Athiest would mean dismissing the concept entirely. But being thankful for what you have is an important key anyhow, as you illustrated talking about prayer before eating.

As to praying in public, and your idea about private prayers -- in public. I find it a great idea, and one that I respect. Shifting the focus of your faith from the social to the personal (not that I have any issues with public prayer, if we can kiss in public, why cant you pray).

ANyway, I might not be the target of your discussion, but an interesting read neverthless!

Thoog.


Cybermouse profile image

Cybermouse 8 years ago from Bentonville, AR Author

Thank you, I appreciate your comment. I'd like to add that it shouldn't be too hard for anyone to obtain a Bible who really wants one. Any good church should be happy to provide you with a free copy, and I'm sure there are some very cheap ones available at the nearest Wal-Mart. Besides that, you don't even have to own a Bible to have access to one. Just do a google search for the Bible and you'll be given a handful of sites that allow you to read the entire Bible, beginning to end, just by having access to the internet.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

When Dan Akroiyd had a TV show in which he portrayed an Episcopal preist, another character came visiting on his motorcycle. This gentleman did not know how to pray about his sadness, so Dan left him alone sitting on the steps of the alter, and the man simply began to sing a rock song to God. That also was a type of prayer I think.

Good hub!


Cybermouse profile image

Cybermouse 8 years ago from Bentonville, AR Author

You're right Patty, I certainly agree. Worship can definitely be a form of prayer for those who haven't developed much of a relationship or prayer life with God. Thanks for sharing that!


commentonthis7 profile image

commentonthis7 8 years ago

God is the only one who matters as long as he approves it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks

commentonthis7


pQsK 8 years ago

I think everyone has the right to do whatever they want in public. We live in the United States of America, its not a Christian country, or a Jewish Country, or an Islamic country, is a country that has freedom of religion and choice. I think though, if someone were to be a little louder than usual or try to make a scene, this is wrong. The same goes for Christians who want to preach their religion, in the constitution it actually allows this. You should read it sometime lol. It's great, so you can technically preach any religion you want in America. I have a mini constitution book its very portable lol. Of course a lot of people look down on jews and muslims when they pray more. That is so wrong. People don't give muslims the credit they deserve, just the extremist get headlined. I met a lot of nice muslims in Iraq. They were awesome, from a religious point of view Christians can learn a lot from muslims and jews.

And one side note about prayer. If you want to pray how G-d intended you to pray, why not do it like the jews, they can give you scripture for it to. It is in Deuteronomy, I forget the chapter, its towards the end though. G-d says, when you go into the land and you eat and you are satisfied by the food you eat, pray and thank Ha-Shem, your G-d. This is why Jews do their prayers after they eat, they even have a formal blessing to bless the food, because think about it, how is the food going to be blessed before you consume it? Before they eat it, they thank G-d for the food, Jesus did this too, you can read about it in the gospels, he raises the bread and thanks G-d for it. That exactly what jews do today, the hold their food in the air and say a blessing "Blessed are you Ha-Shem, our G-d, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth" or the appropriate blessing. It's a good model if you are into religion. Okay, I've said too much...


Cybermouse profile image

Cybermouse 8 years ago from Bentonville, AR Author

That is one good form to use for prayer, thanks for mentioning it. I prefer the form Jesus himself used in the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6:9).


Tricia Ward profile image

Tricia Ward 7 years ago from Scotland

The passage you spoke of about praying is public, should be taken within context. As far as I am aware, that refers to people within Biblical times prayed publically in a "Look at me and how holy I am" kind of way. So the passage is speaking more of your attititude to prayer rather than the physical act.

I see nothing wrong with praying in public.

Praying with eyes closed is again a learned behaviour. I am quite sure God is more pleased with your relationship with Him rather than your prayer methods!


lorianna boehl 6 years ago

im kinda on the ify side of praying in public or with pepole. i just dont now but hey im only 12.


Lorianna Boehl 6 years ago

Thanks for the info. im in english class and doing an in sainly long essay for prayng in public. i dont like to pray in public. im catholic thought like hoe is that.

:^(


lorianna 6 years ago

i meant how is that srry


pilgrimboy profile image

pilgrimboy 6 years ago from Ohio

Good thoughts. I like the idea of praying in the car before going into a restaurant. We will have to try that out.

The other day I was in a conversation with an individual who totally discredited an event because there was not an opening prayer. It made me think about this. I cannot see anywhere in Scripture where we have to have these ritualistic opening prayers. They are good to do as they are a reminder to put our focus on God, which we should be doing all of the time anyway.

And you conclude with an interesting thought. If we pray that God will bless the food to our body and then turn around and eat food that we know is trash, are we usually using God's name and prayer in vain?

Grace and peace.


Alan Headbloom 6 years ago

I have two very different experiences to share.

1. Many years ago, I was out for breakfast with a Dad and his young daughter. At home, I knew they said a prayer before meals. In public, I discovered, the Dad asked what we were thankful for. It was like a conversation. It was not ostentatious public posturing. We all recognized it as a prayer. (God did too.)

2. Recently, I was out for lunch with 8 acquaintances. When the food arrived, one of the people grabbed the hands of the person on either side and said, "Can we pray?" I was at first surprised, then offended. It is not my personal style to pray in public, and I felt trapped by my own Midwestern civility, unable to protest, too polite to get up. She never asked my preference. She also did not know the belief system of two of the other diners. At our end of the table, several of us did not hold hands. We just hushed for the brief prayer. I silently fumed over the insensitivity of it all. Just because 75% of the U.S. is Christian doesn't mean someone can make assumptions about a whole table's spirituality. Such imperialism gives Christians a bad name. I think unceasing Thessalonians should consider that sometimes their prayers need to be silent and shared only with God, not foisted on the whole room.


Dory 6 years ago

these are my thoughts. when someone in a very large crowd bows their head to pray over their food and no one else is praying, it makes a person feel like less of a person or they should be doing the same. It does say....look at me, I'm so Christian I'm praying over my food. I appreciate the fact that you can give thanks for your food with your eyes open and without making a spectacle of yourself.


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 6 years ago from Central United States of America

You have offered some usable options that I have not recognized before. Very forthright and interesting hub - and comments also. Thank you for a helpful sharing, here.


Dave Sibole profile image

Dave Sibole 5 years ago from Leesburg, Oh

Enjoyed the hub. I used to be self conscious about praying openly in a public place but as I've gotten older (and grown in my relationship to God) I've come to realize it is what it is; showing gratitude to God for the food and ability to enjoy it (hopefully.)


Johanne Alton  5 years ago

I am an administrative assistant at a Christian church and last week at our staff meeting I was asked to pray before the staff meeting. This was only about the second time I had done this in the 4 years I had been working there. One would think working in a church I should be comfortable by now praying in front of all these people who I've known for years, but I was a little caught off guard because normally one of the pastors would pray before a meeting. I guess this was why I was uncomfortable though; praying in front of all the pastors...particularly the lead pastor. Not that he's holier than me, but I guess I thought someone with way more praying experience would think my prayer was too simple. Just my 0.02 cents


gdaddy 5 years ago

It seems to me that the point of Matthew 6:5 is a warning to those who sincerely desire to thank the Lord that if they pray in public it may, and probably will, be seen as hypocritical. The point being, not to cast a negative light on your faith. After all, how would an observer distinguish a sincere prayer from a show? And, it does matter what others think, as your reputation is your most powerful witness.


Jeanne Lowery 5 years ago

Alan Headbloom,

I totally agree


SherrieAnne profile image

SherrieAnne 4 years ago

Cybermouse~I can't tell you how much I appreciate you writing this hub...love everything you said. My heart has been touched by some of the comments that have been made as well however. I have to ask myself if I've been insensitive at times without knowing?


Guest 4 years ago

Cybermouse, I absolutely respect you for not making a spectacle of yourself and family by praying in the car before hand - to me this seems so much more sincere than the people who want an audience when they pray. To the people who pray at a table in the restaurant - do you honestly bow your head, close your eyes and mumble your prayer when you are all by yourself?


Jason 4 years ago

I pray openly in public at my table when I go out to eat. Not only does 1 Thess 5:17 state the obvious but it's my right in a country where "IN GOD WE TRUST" is printed on the money HE has blessed you with! If you have a problem with that, you should examine yourself and figure out how to fix the insecurites you have that make you uncomfortable with people doing what they want in a FREE country. As a Christian, it is your duty to be tolerant of the people who are most opposite. I remember someone said that once, JC I think it was....

Thanks for the site Cybermouse!


When Jesus said not to pray in public, it seems to me he had to mean, "make a show of it". That's what the hypocrites did. A private prayer from your hear 4 years ago

When Jesus said not to pray in public, it seems to me he meant don't 'make a show of it'. "Pray without ceasing" would necessitate praying in public at times, and a private prayer from your heart to God's is never wrong.

I strongly disagree with the above comment: "God is the only one that matters ... it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks."

Many so often perceive public displays by Christians to be pious self-righteous actions. It may not be true but if we care about reaching unbelievers then it matters! The presentation of Christ to unbelievers was and still is the point of the Gospel.

Why not commune privately to God and let your other actions speak: "Let you light shine before men in such a way that they may see your GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father in heaven."


Jennifer 4 years ago

At home, before we eat, my family prays and gives thanks to God. That does not change when we go out to eat in a public location. We are just as thankful for the food prepared by soneone else in a restaurant ad we are for the food prepared in our home. There is not a show when we give thanks. No singing or dancing to make a spectacle. Just a quiet family prayer. When the staff comes out and sings happy birthday to someone at the table next to me, I don't get upset. The noise may be a bit loud and make it difficult for my family to continue conversation, but we just stop and then carry on when the celebration concludes. I respect their wishes to celebrate their birthday in public even though I don't know them and it's not a celebration I have any desire to participate in. When we pray in public, we still pray to God. The prayer is not intended for public participation. If for some reason, someone else sees us praying and it makes them feel bad, or less adequate, or left out, then that is not our fault. That is a time for that person to ask themselves why they feel that way. They can't blame someone else for how they feel.


able seaman r carr 4 years ago

does this mean we cant bless our ships during commioning ceromonys or have rememberance day has this judge even thought of the consequence of his ruling and is this ruling just christian or every faith


Betru2yoself 4 years ago

As for me-I say a short prayer thanking God for my food. If Im at school in my cafeteria surrounded by many people or one--it doesn't matter to me-I don't think about what are they going to think--I just do it-I sit down, close my eyes and say my short Thankful prayer and eat..It's in my heart to do it and so I follow my heart--my spirit--But I also don't go around telling people who smoke cigarettes around me not to do it cause it can kill them or me--No I don't like it-especially around me-but I don't hate or dislike the people who choose to live differently than I--If its the cigarette that brings them joy, peace and comfort in their life--then so be it--smoke on-I will be "praying" for you-I used to smoke cigarettes--I tried it--then I grew out of it--Now Im trying out prayer--and I like it--I enjoy it--It does something inside my spirit where I feel better,hopeful,happy. We are all responsible for our own lives-our own choices--Prayer make me feel good-speaking to my God makes me feel Good-so why would I stop praying to him when I feel like it because someone else chooses not to try it out -This world is full of hurt and pain--Whatever our beliefs are--I only hope that they are ones that are lifting our spirits up to be better people in our society. If I choose to believe in Jesus Christ--Because he alone makes me into a better person than what I was before I knew him..Then it's what I choose-The same way when we feel the need to do other things in life that seem out of the norm or part of the status quo-we do it-If someone were to come up to me and say "hey could you please not do that around me it makes me feel uncomfortable--Then of course-I would show them love and respect and not do it...But until then, I will pray whenever I feel guided to do so


ikenhower 4 years ago

I am a christian, but my parents are super korean christians and it is embarrassing when we go out to a public restaurant especially a nice restaurant and my mom prays for 5 minutes in a loud voice. This does not reach unbelievers. This annoys everyone around.

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