public prayerMy friend Lynn and I just finished teaching a class on prayer at Florissant Presbyterian Church.  Talking about prayer to other people is a breeze.  Praying out loud in front of them?  Not so breezy.

Lynn is really good at praying in public.  Really good.  Fortunately, she was on board with helping me learn.  We opened each class with a time to share Joys and Concerns.  Then Lynn would read a devotional that ended with a prayer.  After that prayer, she’d dump the next part on me.

That’s how it felt in the beginning.  This second prayer is always about the joys and concerns.  I stumbled over the notes I had taken as I prayed over whatever everyone had shared.  This ranged from children looking for work or a new home to friends and relatives who were sick. Sometimes we pray for the family members of someone who had died.  Joys include travel, new jobs, a new baby or a new home.

I’d love to say that by the end of two months, I was smooth as silk.  I’d love to say that, but it wouldn’t be entirely true.  I’m still not nearly as good as Lynn but here are three things I learned.

  1. Bring a prayer. If you know you are going to have to pray in public, you can always write something ahead of time. No, it isn’t cheating. Congregational prayers that are printed in church bulletins so that we can read them together are written ahead of time. You can do it too.
  2. Take notes.  If this is an impromptu prayer, such as praying over joys and concerns, you can’t prepare ahead of time, but you can take notes.  Trying to remember all the names as you pray before the group will just make you nervous.  Write down names and a few details.  Group like requests (illness, births, travel, etc.) together to help keep your thoughts organized.
  3. Be yourself.  Do not compare yourself to anyone else.  Lynn intimidates me without even trying.  But I’ve learned that I can give a prayer that is short and sweet and to the point.  Sure, other people might work in literary references and talk for five minutes or more.  That’s not my style and that’s okay.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that praying in public is easy.  That said, I no longer feel like I’m walking the plank. For me, I think that a big part of it was getting over the fact that I don’t do it the same way other people do it.

But that’s okay.  It’s what you are going to get whenever you ask me to talk to someone on your behalf.  Family, friend or God, the conversation is going to be direct, simple and to the point.