When Brian and I were engaged, we went on a pre-marital retreat, and before each meal, the leaders asked for a volunteer to pray. Those of us who were comfortable praying in public took care of the first few meals, but by the second day…well, you could hear the crickets. At one meal in particular, no one volunteered, and finally, someone said, “Good bread, good meat, good God, let’s eat!”
Public prayer, even prayer with just one other person, can be daunting. If you are a person who is comfortable with it, then good for you – keep doing it! But if you are one of the many who is hesitant to pray out loud, know that you are not alone.
This week, I had a wonderful time talking with our Stephen Ministers about The Practice of Prayer. When you find yourself needing or wanting to pray with someone out loud, here are my tips of the trade:
1. Start with a deep breath. A deep breath helps us to clear distractions, center, and, if we are nervous, it lowers our blood pressure. It helps us to be fully present in the moment. And because breath comes freely, it is a reminder of God’s grace. In our fast-paced and noisy world, a “pregnant pause” can be a gift to the one praying and the one prayed for.
2. Be authentic. You don’t need to sound like the Bible, the hymnal, or the pastor. God knows you already and loves you as you are!
3. Often, less is more. A prayer doesn’t have to be long to be powerful. Say what you mean, and then you’re done.
4. Name feelings. God already knows what we feel and understands what we are going through. And yet, naming our experience and holding it in God’s presence can be powerfully healing for our spirits. Careful listening to the person you are praying for is essential here.
5. Acknowledge what God is already doing. We are all familiar with the idea of asking God for what we want and need. There is also great comfort in naming what God is already doing. God has promised to love us, to forgive us, to be present with us, to grant us peace that surpasses understand, and to give us new life. We can trust that those things are already available to us because God keeps promises.
God knows what we need already. God is already at work. God knows our prayers even if we can’t quite articulate them. And yet, there is power, for us, in naming these things. Adding language to these mysteries helps us humans feel closer to what is already as close as our breath, steady, and sure.
Let me know in the comments, fellow pray-ers, what are your tips of the trade? How do you get started when diving in to this mysterious practice of faith?