Firstly, let’s just get all on the same page: there’s absolutely nothing weird or wrong with you if you struggle to pray out loud, in front of people. Praying in a group, or in front of someone else is a unique situation: you are directly addressing an invisible person (God) in front of visible people, but you’re meant to be ignoring them and focusing just on him, yet it’s hard not to be aware of all the other people all listening to you talking… See what I mean?
Whether it’s a prayer meeting, a small group, being asked to say grace or in a one on one conversation, opportunities for praying out loud crop up frequently in the life of a Christian. I’ve noticed that it’s one of the biggest hurdles for new Christians to overcome but equally know many seasoned saints who dread praying out loud. The theory seems simple but the reality is easily overcomplicated.
Firstly, why should we pray out loud? Surely God knows our thoughts (he does) and surely it’s about just me and God when we pray? Well, yes it is and no, it’s not. You can’t make a biblical case for never praying in front of, or with people, and the idea of a prayer meeting where no-one prays out loud just seems silly and awkward (although corporate silence can be extremely powerful and the evangelical tradition would do well to re-explore it). Throughout the Psalms, David and others regularly write about how they will praise, declare and thank God in front of others – see Psalm 35:18 and Psalm 40:9 for example.
When we verbalise our praise and our prayers, we are presenting other people with several opportunities. We are giving them an opportunity to agree; we may have said something that they were also thinking, believing or wanting to pray for and so when we say it out loud, they have a chance to agree. Jesus encourages this agreement in Matthew 18:19: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
The second opportunity we are giving them is the opportunity to be encouraged. When someone else prays something, particularly something bold or significant, their faith can encourage others in the group to pray boldly too. God invites us to ask and, since he is capable of doing anything, it makes sense to ask him to do the extraordinary, the impossible and the miraculous. When we’re in an environment where others are asking big things of God, we are more likely to ask big things of him too and that’s a very good thing.
The final opportunity we are giving them is the opportunity to be informed. We generally tend to pray for what we care about; a situation or circumstance that we feel strongly about. By verbalising this, others have a chance to get to know our hearts a little better. Prayer is an extraordinarily intimate thing and it can reveal who we are. It’s like a “behind the scenes” moment. I know the things that matter most to people in my church because I hear them regularly pray them out loud. We’re closer because they’ve shown me that aspect of their heart and calling, through prayer.
Hopefully that provides a little bit of clarity on why we should pray out loud. You can read part 2 of this blog; “How To Pray Out Loud” here!