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:
- Have not been the subject of our prayers in private
- Have not been a burden on our hearts
- 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.)