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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