Yesterday, we asked the question “Why should I pray out loud?” If you missed that, you can catch up here and hopefully that’ll be helpful for you. Today, we’re going to continue on the praying out loud theme and just go through some thoughts/tips/principles that can help you with praying out loud.
Whether you’re completely comfortable praying in front of people, a total novice or somewhere in between, we can all acknowledge that it’s a developed practice (I hesitate to use the word ‘skill’ here) that only comes naturally to a tiny percentage of people.
Firstly, it’s important to say that, just because some people seem to be able to pray out loud in a profound, grand, room-stirring, heaven-shaking way, there is no hierarchy for prayers. In fact, the stammered, simple prayer of a shy person is just as precious to God. The language of the kingdom of God is prayer and this kingdom does not use our earthly systems of value. Jesus publicly rebuked those who “keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Lots of words, with skilled cadence, do not equal power in prayer. We would do well to remember that.
Jesus also warns about those who “pray that they may be seen by others”. There is a fine line between wanting to develop in public prayer and desiring to be seen. This tension is managed by focusing on God and, through that focus, we find ourselves praying in a way that also encourages, informs and inspires others. The focus comes first; the fruit will follow.
What do you want to say?
Personally, I find it helpful to have thought about what I want to pray for and that looks like having worked out the first sentence or two. Alternatively, I’ll know the two/three things that I want to pray about a situation and will think about them for a few minutes before I pray for them out loud. It’s not bad praying to actually consider what you want to say.
Who are you talking to?
One of the biggest things I have tried to incorporate into my prayer life is cutting out the rambling words or ‘Christianese’. The most helpful way to do that, I’ve found, is a) slow down and b) think about who I’m talking to. Rather than throwing in “Lord Father Jesus” every sentence (whomever Lord Father Jesus is?!), I try to address God simply as “Father”, Jesus as “Jesus” or the Holy Spirit as “Holy Spirit”. Slowing down and thinking about who I’m talking to has brought an unexpected sense of closeness during public prayer.
Size doesn’t matter.
Long prayers don’t equal spiritual prayers. Long prayers don’t equal powerful prayers. Long prayers don’t equal better prayers. Amen.
You’re not alone.
We never pray alone; even when we’re aren’t with a group. Romans 8 tells us that “We don’t know what we should pray but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Holy Spirit will help you pray, will bring things to your mind and will fill your simple words with heavenly depth. We bring the words, he brings the power. Not only that, Jesus himself is praying for us: interceding at the right hand of the Father. We’re in good company when we pray and we can trust that all our prayers will be heard, regardless of their natural form.
This is for anyone who finds praying out loud daunting, difficult or flat-out terrifying: relax. It’s not a race, a competition or a test. It’s just a prayer. God knows the heart behind it and doesn’t mind if you get the words wrong. In fact, in any church worth its salt, neither will the people you’re praying with – especially if you don’t pray out loud often. Don’t overthink it. Just keep trying, don’t let yourself get too discouraged and soon, you’ll find it natural and normal.