honest prayers together

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Years ago, some friends and I prayed for missionaries on Saturday mornings. Really what that means is mostly my friends prayed. I bowed my head, mentally attempting to gather courage to also pray. Whenever I had “finally decided” what I wanted to say in my prayer, I would still wait before starting. Inevitably, someone else always seemed to pray for the exact thing I had in mind to say. Oh well, I guess I wasn’t supposed to pray this time. 

There are always excuses available to keep us from doing right, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt some sort of anxiety at the thought of praying aloud. While praying to God, even behind the security of bowed heads and closed eyes how easily we become self-conscious about what people will think. However, besides the nervousness of praying aloud, another hindrance I have noticed (and participated in) is the temptation to pray mostly impersonal prayers in public.

What I mean by that, is oftentimes, public praying becomes comprised of praying for legitimate requests that either:

  1. Have not been the subject of our prayers in private
  2. Have not been a burden on our hearts
  3. Have not felt like they have a bearing on our lives*

Christians need to pray honest prayers together: the prayers that burden us, and keep us awake at night; the prayers we’ve been praying for days, months, or years and still wait to see God answer; the prayers about our own sins and the battles we’re fighting; the prayers that come from heartfelt humility. Pray those prayers with other Christians. Perhaps public prayers should look surprisingly similar to private prayers much more often than they do.

I don’t say that this is easy, but there’s nothing wrong with speaking the prayers that will end you in tears or give a fellow believer a clearer picture of who you really are and what you really face. There is hardly a more encouraging, relationship strengthening pursuit we could engage in with other Christians than praying honest prayers together. 

Who knows the depth of joy, fellowship, and authenticity we’ll experience together? And who knows what we might see God do when Christians join in prayer over the very requests where they desperately see their need of grace?

(*Note: Sometimes we haven’t prayed in private, but we should have. We are not burdened, but we should be. We don’t see the connection to our lives, but it is there. If this is true about some of our prayers, that doesn’t mean we should stop praying for those requests, but we should ask God to make us more heartfelt in our praying about them.)

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11 thoughts on “honest prayers together

  1. Nice insights. I’ve also noticed that many times people start preaching during their prayers in public. I think that we need to imagine in our minds that we are, as a group, gathering in front of God’s throne to petition Him for things. Praying on our knees might facilitate this attitude, though I have never been in that situation in public so I’m not sure.

    • That’s a good point, Scott! I’ve noticed in my personal prayer times that the posture I take while praying can affect my attitude and attention in prayer. It does seem like there is a place for “reminding” God of His Words in prayer (quoting Scriptures/stating truth), but being mindful of our position before God should help keep that from turning into preaching, like you said.

  2. This is really good. It seems like the perfect time that I needed it, too, because just this month our church changed our prayer meeting schedule so every first Wednesday of the month, the families split up into groups (each group with a few families and led by a pastor or elder) and we each take a turn giving a prayer request and then praying… (before we changed that, you could just pray if you wanted.) I was really nervous. Thanks for this; I’m sure it will help me next month! :)

    • That sounds great, Hannah! I hope you all have encouraging prayer times together, and I’m glad that the post could help you prepare for the new change in your prayer meetings!

  3. Yet another area where we share very similar thoughts and experiences. Been thinking about his a lot lately, because I rarely pray publicly unless asked to. I’ll pray with small groups of friends, but rarely at church prayer meetings and the like. At one of our most recent prayer meetings, I was thinking through why we do public prayer and why I would have a reason to pray in such settings (all this during a prayer time, mind you, so this wasn’t really the best time to be thinking about these things =P), and I came to a somewhat different conclusion. I decided that I feel most comfortable (or perhaps least uncomfortable) praying publicly when I feel like I have something that God’s teaching me that I feel like others could potentially benefit from. Then I feel selfish if I don’t share it, so I do.

    And I did that night. It was something about trusting Him in the midst of this political season when we’re being led to believe that our trust should be in one politician or another. Trusting that He will remain the Sovereign no matter who’s in the White House come next January. Not anything special, just some encouragement I wanted to communicate. And based on people’s grunts of affirmation as I was praying, I think they appreciated it.

    So, I guess that kinda fits with your second point, about praying what’s been a burden on our hearts. But I don’t think I’ve quite gotten to the point of “honest” prayers. Prayers that I would pray to God if it were just Him and me. And… I don’t feel like I could. Not because I’m not convinced it’s right or proper, but I don’t know if it would feel right. And maybe that’s just my introverted personality coming through. I dunno. Perhaps I would be open to being that transparent in my prayers someday. I have a couple of friends who definitely are. But for right now, I seem to still be stuck in a sort of formalism, and I can’t quite get past the feeling that I’m performing when I’m praying publicly. It stinks, and I wish I could stop it. But I don’t really know how.

    Anyways. Sorry for getting all long-winded like that. You can see I really have been thinking about it a lot. And, y’know, you said you like the long comments, so you kinda asked for it. ;) Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts. I always look forward to an email in my inbox about another post of yours. =)

    • Christian said basically everything I have been thinking! But I didn’t want to have to write it all out… so thanks Christian! :D :P

    • Don’t apologize for being long-winded- I honestly meant that I like long comments. ;) I really appreciated hearing your thoughts about this topic and feedback to the post.

      It seems like there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to praying honest prayers with other people, same as with pretty much everything else in life. ;) I’ve had friends who would be in tears nearly every time they prayed and others who stick to their KJV English whenever they prayer, which doesn’t make their prayers less meaningful or honest. But I’ve been that person sitting in the prayer meeting (many times) who prayed abstractly about the spread of the gospel or evangelism all while my heart was aching over a particular burden that I wouldn’t share because I knew I might get emotional or stumble around if I actually prayed for that. I know public praying (and by that I just mean any prayer that includes anyone more than ourselves and God) is difficult, but I think a lot of that has to do with our formal ideas about fellowship and privacy, rather than because God intended it to be that way. What are your thoughts about that? Also, small steps are legit. :) Praying about things you’ve prayed for in private (i.e. the outcome of the election) is an honest prayer because it’s something that mattered to you and you’ve prayed about in private. I love when I see people praying for even more personal/honest prayers with other Christians, but obviously, it takes time to get to that point (both for our own mental strength to do it and the closeness we have with the believers), and that’s okay! Anyway, I have a bunch more that I could say, but I’m actually about to write a follow-up post to this, so I’ll save my thoughts for that, and look forward to hearing if you have more thoughts to add also.

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