We were at the playground when suddenly the birthday boy somehow cut open his forehead and had to go to the ER for stitches. The rest of the moms attended to the party details and tried to find which piece of equipment had cut him so that nobody else would get hurt. Another mom walked up, found out what was going on, and said, “We have to pray.”
So we did. A big group of women, holding hands in the middle of a park, asking God for his protection. It was beautiful.
Up until then, honestly, praying out loud—with people!—was not something I was used to. Oh sure, there was the Lord’s Prayer, the before and after meals prayer (that somehow everyone knew), and the “Dear Jesus help us have a good game or performance or concert” kind of prayer.
But never one in the heat of an emotional moment. That would just be awkward. Obviously I would gladly pray for you, but probably not with you. And out loud? Sheesh. Now you’re making me uncomfortable.
Since that day, little by little I’ve gotten more comfortable with the concept. It started with that group of friends. Yet it took me a few years to get up the courage to suggest it to someone else. I was on the phone with a friend who was on the verge of divorce and I asked, “Mind if we pray before we hang up?” She said yes and thanked me. There, was that actually so hard? Nope. What was I worried about?
Here are four tips that have helped me get more comfortable with praying out loud—with people!
- Practice by yourself. Your personal prayers are a great time to try this. What I found was that my prayers got so much more focused and stayed on topic when I prayed out loud. (Admittedly, my mind wanders so much when I pray in my head.) My out loud prayers also helped me refine my prayers. Speaking what’s on my heart to my Father often exposes when I am praying more for my will than for his. So, yes, sometimes I’ve had to say, “Wow! That sounded awful. Please change my thinking, Jesus.”
- Use your words and keep it simple. This is your prayer to your God. It doesn’t have to sound like anyone else, and wordy prayers don’t get you bonus points. Jesus said it best: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7).In the movie God’s Not Dead, Rev. Jude and Pastor Dave were having car troubles. Right before they were going to try to start the car yet again, they prayed:
Rev. Jude: Oh, God, please let the car start.
Pastor Dave: Is that it?
Rev. Jude: Why? You have a better God-let-the-car-start kind of blessing?
- When in doubt, use his words. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray. The Bible is full of God’s promises that make great prayers.
“Jesus, you promised that you would be with me always. Be with me now.”
“You are my light and my salvation; I don’t have to be afraid.”
“You are my refuge and strength. You are always with me in trouble.”
And don’t forget, the Lord’s Prayer is a favorite for a reason. (Haven’t heard of the Lord’s Prayer? Here it is.)
- Get over yourself. Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh, but isn’t this the hardest part? We let possible embarrassment get in the way of a potential blessing. We let our egos start thinking, “What will they think of me?” Honestly, I’ve never had someone make fun of me for praying with them. It might be awkward at first, but you’ll get over it. This isn’t about you. It’s about putting yourself and everybody else in the Lord’s hands, his far-more-capable hands.
Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. If you are already an out loud pray-er, I’d love to hear how it has been a blessing in your life.
Linda Buxa is a writer, Bible study leader, retreat speaker, and out loud pray-er. Today she is far more comfortable with suggesting prayer, initiating it, and getting her kids used to the concept. What she’s working on is remembering to suggest it.