Stumbling Down the Stairs
Let’s be honest, one of the most common fears in leadership is the misconception about praying publicly. I have been in leadership for almost 30 years and it is interesting to me how this fear of praying will actually keep people from discovering their calling and gifting in spiritual leadership. All things being equal, we aren’t really afraid of praying, but of sounding foolish while praying.
The expectation is that if you are the leader of any size group, praying publicly should be an easy thing for you to do. Not only is there a pressure to always be ok with praying out loud, we feel the pressure to pray theologically correct while sounding poetic and inspirational. If I am leading the spiritual conversation between my friends, then doesn’t it stand to reason that I should lead in the conversation between us and God?
The very first time we pray out loud it feels so awkward, like we are falling down the stairs in front of our group and in front of God. Not only that, but I might feel as if I am pulling the group down with me with the awkward, halting, rambling prayer. There is good news though if you have found yourself among the many hesitant stumblers. Let me clarify a few thoughts about the concept of prayer, and then give a few hints to become more comfortable with praying for or with your group.
God wants everyone to pray. (1 Timothy 2:8)
Let me say out loud that prayer is not just for the extroverted cheerleader. Effective prayer is not just for the seminary graduate, or the poet laureate. Prayer, by its very definition is the connection of hearts, thoughts, and wills to our Heavenly Father. Speaking out loud with confidence and clarity is not requirement for answered prayers.
God isn’t impressed by lengthy or poetic prayers. (Matthew 6:7)
When I pray, the value of my prayer is not based by likes or retweets, but rather the condition and intimacy of my heart. Some of the most beautiful prayers in the world have either been a silent nod to the heavens, or even a simple word or phrase spoken in absolute devotion or sincerity. How many times in a movie have you seen the tough guy grit out the word “thanks” through clinched teeth, and yet somehow that one word carried so much weight? The sincerity of what we say is way more important than the quantity of words.
God will actually help us pray when we can’t find the words (Romans 8:26)
How often have I heard this response when I ask someone to pray for our group “I’m not a good prayer, ask someone else”. The truth is, none of us are good prayers. Some of us are comfortable prayers, but no one is born an eloquent person of prayer. It is not a spiritual gift. Prayer is a spiritual practice. Like anything that is practiced, we can use help to learn. The Holy Spirit is our coach and we can ask Him for help. One of most beautiful requests in scripture is “Lord teach us to pray”.
So, if you are struggling in this area of public prayer, here are a few helps to get you started:
- Find a written prayer, or write out one yourself beforehand and read it instead of praying off the cuff.
- Share the load with others in your group. Ask different members to pray for specific requests and you pray at the beginning or the end, or both.
- Have a “thanksgiving” round of prayer. Have everyone in the group say a one sentence prayer starting with “Thank you Lord for…”
- Open with an honest admission. “Lord, it’s hard for me to pray out loud, but I want to lead well. Please help me now in this prayer…” (You would be surprised at how this simple admission will bless your entire group)
- Practice praying out loud when you are alone. Instead of a “quiet time” at home, pray loud enough that you hear yourself and get familiar with your prayer voice.
Praying for you all!
Author, Dave Shields