Many of us find difficulty in praying aloud in a group. We may be at school, a church meeting, or at the dinner table when we are called upon to give thanks. Often, an immediate reaction is one of consternation. What should I say? What will others think of me because of my prayer? Will what I say be adequate? Couldn’t I just put together a few well-known phrases and have it over with?
Prayer, both silent and aloud is an integral part of our lives, and has been a part of the lives of all the saints since the beginning of time. When we call upon a person to pray we do not choose the most articulate or the person most at ease in a group. Rather, each of us takes his turn at leading others in prayer. God has given each of us his own particular needs, and also the need for others to pray with him and for him. No one needs to be ashamed of expressing his spiritual needs or weaknesses, but takes courage that others pray with him for strength.
It seems that in our modern time, the difficulties of the spoken prayer are emphasized. The world around us encourages us to be our own person, to go our own individual way, and not to be dependent upon others. This independent attitude also fits in well with our human nature, and is difficult to shake off. However, just the opposite must be expressed in our prayer. We are totally dependent upon God and are also dependent upon our fellows in the church.
It seems that there may be an alternative to praying aloud in a group. All could offer a silent prayer in unison. This way each person could express his own need to God without any consciousness of others hearing him. However, this misses an important part of prayer, that the hearts of all are united as one. The words of one person are the expression of the feelings of all involved.
Hoping that the ideas of a short article are not too elementary, let’s examine a few basic concepts of prayer.
The attitude of our prayer must be one of holy reverence. The knowledge that we pray to the all-powerful Father in Heaven creates a feeling of profound respect and awe in us before we even begin our prayer. This attitude also destroys any notion of criticism on the part of any child of God who hears that prayer. Our God is a majestic god before whom all of us humble ourselves, especially in prayer.
Our God is also one who has revealed Himself to His people, and therefore has inspired in them the confidence that their prayer is heard. Without this assurance our prayer would be mere words; or at best, a hope that a wish would be fulfilled. This trust in God in our prayer means that our whole being is dominated by our words of thankfulness to Him.
Our knowledge is God guides us in selecting the content of our prayer. The Heidelberg Catechism explains that prayer “is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us.” Our thankfulness to God is in no way a payment to Him like it might be to another person. Rather, in our thankfulness we recognize that God is the source of all good which come to us. In this way prayer is a good work.
In our prayer we ask God for all that we need for our spiritual and material existence. We recognize that His Will is done in what He provides us with. Because of this, the unregenerate cannot pray, for they ask for only what seems good for them.
God has instilled in His people a need and a desire for prayer. Although God knows our needs, He still requires of us to verbalize them. God gives His grace to them who come to Him in prayer.
Prayer requires patience, practice, and experience, as well as thought and meditation. Our old nature constantly works to interfere with our communication with God. However, God has given His people grace and faith to pray to Him, so that they might receive His further blessing.
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16