Praying Out Loud
In several surveys, fear of public speaking outranks fear of death as people’s number one fear. If that’s the case, I imagine fear of praying in public might be the true number one anxiety!
Some people seem like they’re born to pray in public. I remember a man named Bill T. Newton in the church I grew up in. Bill T. glorified God every Sunday with his rich, deep bass voice. And at every Sunday school opening, Bill T. glorified God by leading us in prayer. Bill T.’s prayers were always devout and inspirational, and as was typical for men of that generation, filled with “thees” and “thous.”
Now there is that teaching of Jesus in the New Testament to consider. Jesus encourages us to pray in secret, rather than in public, “and your Father who sees you in secret will reward you.” If we’re reluctant to pray out loud because we don’t want to build ourselves up in pride, that’s a legitimate concern.
On the other hand, why is it so much easier to declare our love for family and friends out loud our love for the God who created our family and friends? This is a question that Madame Chiang Kai-shek poses in The Sure Victory, a book I mentioned in last Friday’s post. In the book, Madame Chiang writes that the idea of a prayer group came to her as a result of her being inwardly convicted of sin. She realized that, in her life as a Christian on the world stage, she’d been using God rather than letting God use her. A prayer group, she realized, might be a way to help her serve God alone.
She felt self-conscious about praying in front of other people. Nevertheless, she asked a few people she trusted, and they were happy to meet with her and pray together. In Madame Chiang’s prayer group, they would sing a hymn; someone would read scripture; members would share prayer requests, and they would pray one at a time as the Spirit led them. (In my experience with prayer groups, we call this “popcorn prayer”)! The group grew, and members began to experience a sense of spiritual joy and exhilaration. They also took advantage of opportunities that presented themselves to help people in need and make new disciples.
You don’t have to have the right voice to pray in front of other people, or the “right” words. All you need is a willingness to make God your top priority in your life. If that desire is bubbling up in you, why not ask a couple of people you trust and admire to pray with you? See what happens. If the virus is a concern, you can gather via Zoom, or even pray together on the telephone. See what happens.