Praying in Public
Perhaps the hair on the back of your neck already stood up when you read the title of tonight’s post. Then again, perhaps not – because you are one of the lucky ones who doesn’t mind petitioning the Lord of the universe on behalf of people who have asked for prayer. The more that I am in ministry, the more I realize that one of the deepest fears that people have is the idea of public speaking; and that includes offering a prayer in public. Whether it is saying grace or offering intercessory prayer on behalf of other believers, many people have more trouble with prayer than you might imagine.
What makes this worse is that many people who have a fear of praying openly are dedicated, God fearing, genuine believers who wish they could get over their fear of expressing their innermost thoughts in front of others. When polled, people admit that they worry about what to say to God, are worried that they will be judged by others who are listening or worry that they won’t be eloquent in their petition. And sometimes, yes, their worst fears come true.
Years ago, even I, one who loves public speaking, had a fear of praying in public. But as I felt I was supposed to dedicate my life to ministry, I would eventually need to be able to pray in front of others. Janet and I ended up taking a Crown financial ministries class with my cousin, Dave, and the entire twelve weeks of the program my prayer request was that I would be able to say grace on Thanksgiving Day in front of the extended family. God was gracious and answered my prayer – grace on Thanksgiving went great, but it wasn’t without perspiring beforehand and worrying about being ridiculed…
And then there was the time that I was a small group leader of a new community group and one of the couples had never belonged to a small group before. In fact, the wife had never, ever asked anyone to pray for her and at the end of the evening, we went around the room and everyone submitted their prayer requests – including her. As leader of the group, I closed the evening by praying and when I finished, I was reminded that I prayed for everyone – except her! I felt terrible, but the husband and wife were both very upset that the first time the wife had taken a risk and asked for prayer, her request was disregarded. She was right – and I was wrong. But it was very embarrassing and it destroyed the relationship – much to my dismay. So my road to be able to pray in public was not without a few missteps along the way.
Now, praying in public is something that I do more times than I can count. Some of that comfort comes from having a relationship with God – He already knows what I am going to say anyway – so it’s not news to Him. And God knows I am not perfect, so I am going to make mistakes when I pray. And, besides that, I really don’t worry about what others think when I pray – I’m not there to impress them, but to worship the Father and His Son. These realities have all made public prayer easier for me. So has my knowledge of God and the Bible. The more I know, the more confident I am in speaking with God.
Another thing – I have started all the grandchildren out by asking them to take turns saying grace during our meals. Sometimes, all of them pray at the table. It must be working – this week at VBS, at least 2 of them prayed before the entire vacation Bible school – and that was awesome. I guess it is easier to start young that to have to try to overcome fears later in life.
The verse for this evening is from John 14:25-27, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” In these verses, God’s secret weapon is revealed to us – the Holy Spirit! Because the Holy Spirit indwells all believers and when we don’t know what to do, or what to pray for, the Holy Spirit steps up on our behalf. You will be amazed at how the words just flow when you ask the Spirit to take over – try it, it really works.
My encouragement this evening is that with God all things are possible – even praying in public. My prayer is that you will ask the Holy Spirit for assistance if you need help in this area. After all, when somebody asks for prayer and you are hesitant to deliver, it impacts the way others think about the kingdom. So come on in, the water’s fine… experience some of that peace the Holy Spirit delivers, and have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…