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How to Pray in Public
Are You Afraid to Pray in Public?
Are you afraid to pray in public? Are you embarrassed at praying out loud? Should a Christian pray out loud in public? Read on for some insights and tips that will make praying outloud before a group easier and more meaningful.
Glossophobia is "the fear of public speaking." I am unable to find a clinical term for "the fear of Public Praying" (I suspect there are enough similarities that a separate name is not warranted), but a name is not necessary for the intended purpose of this webpage, anyway. This is not to be a clinical (read that as worldly) study, but rather a spiritual one. I hope to help people recognize the role of Public Prayer in society and Church and to help people be better prepared when their turn comes to Pray in Public.
Image: Praying Cowboys.
Christian Praying in Public
Let's get this out of the way:
Let me start by saying that this articles is written from a decidedly Christian/Judeo Christian perspective. This is offered neither as an excuse for my beliefs nor a condemnation of others' beliefs; it's just that I'm a Christian and the God of the Holy Bible is the only god that I know how to pray to.
What are You Talking About?
Public Prayer is a somewhat vague term and can refer to several types of prayer, some of which are detailed below:
- Praying silently/quietly, to oneself in a public area. In Ist Thessalonians, we're told to pray without ceasing; this should not be a stumbling block.
- Praying aloud in a public area uninvited and with antagonistic intent. This is born of a spirit of hate, not love. God is love.
- Praying aloud in public because you're invited to do so and because it's the right thing to do.
I'm sure there are other possibilities, but the third is what I'm addressing in this website.
Every Christian is asked to pray out loud at some time. Inside the Church, we're asked to pray in Sunday School classes, prayer meetings, through the course of worship meetings, etcetera - often, just because it's our turn.
Outside the Church, we're often called upon because others recognize that it's proper to pray to God, but they don't have a strong enough relationship with Him to do it themselves.
One group asks us to pray as a matter of growth and discipline. The other asks us to pray because we can and they cannot - either way, don't turn down this opportunity. Don't deny your Lord in Public!
Why Pray in Public
Argument #1 - The Bible says We're Not Supposed to Pray in Public.
Scripture does not tell us to not pray in public. Scripture does tell us to not pray in such a way as to try to exalt ourselves. In Luke 18, we have the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both men prayed out loud and in public: the tax collector prayed earnestly to God and was justified; the Pharisee prayed to himself and was not.
Praying in Public
Argument #2 - We're Told to Lock Ourselves in Our Prayer Room.
Yes we are. But if you were to reread Matthew 6, I think you'd realize that Personal Prayer and Public Prayer are different, but not mutually exclusive. Having a personal relationship with God is the foundation of the Christian faith. That personal relationship is what allows us to talk (pray) one-on-one with God.
Everyone should seek to have a meaningful Personal Prayer life. The fact remains that from time to time, every practicing Christian will be called upon to pray in public.
Praying in Public
Argument #3 - I Don't Know How to Pray. I Don't Know my Bible Well Enough. I Don't Speak "thees" and "thous." I'm Afraid to Pray Out Loud. I'm Just not Articulate Enough!
I don't know how: that's why you're here.
I don't know my Bible well enough: continue in your studies, but don't let it keep you from this area of worship and service to God.
I don't speak "thees" and "thous": neither do I, but God hears my prayers anyway.
I'm afraid to pray out loud and/or I'm just not articulate enough: Ah, I suspect that this is the real problem. Either we feel we'll be judged by others in the group, and fall short of their expectations, or we feel inadequate to represent the rest of the group as we stand before God.
- I don't know your group; they may judge you harshly. But I think that in most cases, this is more of a perceived problem than a real probability. Your effort will be appreciated. Many will just be glad they're not the ones praying out loud.
- I do know God. Pray earnestly and He will not be disappointed.
Dos and Don'ts of Public Prayer
Remember, You're Praying to God on Behalf of Your Group
DON'T use this opportunity to show off your Bible knowledge or oratory skill, shame anyone into repentance, advertise your cause or preach a mini sermon.
- We've all heard the man that can pray from Genesis to Revelations... using "thees" and "thous," "shalts" and "shalt nots"... addressing God by every name used in the Bible (some in the original language)... calling down fire and brimstone. If this is that man's personality and is the way he prays in his private prayer time, then I say have at it. But if this is a show being performed to impress others, then it has no place among the assembly of God's people.
DO use this opportunity to approach the Throne of God, and to take the rest of the group with you.
- Thank God for His goodness.
- Pray targeted prayers, mentioning specific people, projects or circumstances as appropriate.
- Pray scripture back to God, use His names, remember His promises.
- You're not all alone with God, but that's not a bad thing.
- Pray with your eyes shut and your hands folded. Pray with your eyes open and your hands raised. Pray from a broken heart or an uplifted spirit. Once you and your group have entered the presence of God, posture doesn't matter.
How to Pray in Public
Alright, I'm Convicted; How Do I Get Started?
- Pray in private, first. Tell God your need and ask Him to help.
- Listen to the public prayers of others and learn what you can. Don't duplicate; just learn.
- Anticipate when you might be called upon for impromptu Public Prayer: mealtime, Sunday School, Prayer Meetings, little-league games and local events are examples. By doing this, hopefully you won't be caught unprepared.
- Sometimes you don't have to anticipate - you're asked in advance. Often this happens in more formal settings and when there will be larger crowds (funerals, dedications, club meetings, weddings). Do it! This shows that you were selected on purpose and with forethought, not by random chance.
- Prepare. It's OK to rehearse. Rehearsing a prayer is the same as praying! God's listening.
- When the time comes, use whatever tricks you have to avoid being overly nervous. Trust God to help you. Know that your offering is pleasing to the Lord.
My Public Prayer for You
I pray that you and your group will be blessed the next time that you have the opportunity to Pray Aloud and In Public.
This book is the best Christian devotional that I've ever come across, outside of the Bible itself. It is my favorite gift to give.
I vividly remember giving it to a co-worker at a Christmas gift exchange. She later moved away and we lost touch.
About one year after she'd moved, she called me to tell me that she read the book and that through this study, she'd re-dedicated herself to God! Best gift I ever gave.