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Praying with others

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There is a large extent to which I used to have issues with praying out loud. To me, prayer was (and still is) between God and me, and there was little point in sharing that moment with others. On the contrary, it seemed to me that, in praying out loud, I was more trying to conform to my small group’s expectations: that I was praying in order to be seen to be praying.

Matthew 6:5-6 is of little comfort there:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (ESV)

And yet we have prayer meetings, pray out loud, whether in church or in small groups. Here’s some reasons why:

1. The prayer flows more naturally, and has a more natural close. Speaking the prayer forces your mind to slow down and be fully concentrated on the prayer.

2. It helps build others up.

3. It brings discipline in your own prayer practice. If only because you arrange to pray with others regularly.

4. It brings accountability to your prayer practice. People remember what you pray for, and will ask you how that went. You will know when to push through with prayer.

5. “Praying for” something or someone is vague. With other people praying with you, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, more aspects will be covered.

These reasons have helped me appreciate corporate prayer and rid me of the feeling that I complied with the practice as a hypocrite. Praying with others for the sake of being seen praying is, obviously, wrong. Praying is not a tickbox on a behavioural list.

But if you are in that place where you are ┬ánot sure why you say some of your prayers, push through – it will end up making your prayer life much richer.

6 ways to become bolder in prayer

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God longs to be asked for what he wants to give. And God’s riches for us is infinite. Therefore, we should pray with boldness, whether for others or for ourselves.

Image credit: detail from J. Hannan-Briggs, reused under CC license

Praying with boldness is not simply praying for extravagant things.

I could see a dead body and pray that it come back to life. I could equally pray for peace in the Middle East. But unless I have faith, not only that God can do what I ask, but also that he will, then my prayer is that of a hypocrite.

For that reason, bolting onto prayer coping mechanisms for when prayers might not be answered can be a very bad idea. Because if I pray, thinking “if it doesn’t work, then it will all be put to right when the Kingdom comes”, then I am not expecting an answer to my prayer.

For that reason too, I limit the content of my prayer to what I believe God will do, and try to push those boundaries, rather than the boundaries of what I pray for.

So how can we increase real boldness in prayer?

1. Pray with others. Chances are, other people in your group, will have boldness in some areas where you.
2. Wait on the Spirit to inspire your prayers, and trust that he will lead you well in prayer (how to increase your trust in the Spirit is another matter, though!)
3. Hear “success stories” of prayer. This has its converse, obviously, which is to tell people about your success stories. Careful, though, as keeping a prayer diary may soon turn in “checking whether God is answering my prayers” – which is a sneaky way of doubt to be instilled into your own prayer practice.
4. Offer to pray for others when you see something is up with them. I have found it easier to believe God will help others, rather than help “unworthy me” (though there is no truth in that belief, sometimes you can’t help feeling that way!)
5. Be ready for the consequences. Think what will happen when you pray for patience. Or for your heart to be opened up to be able to love more. Just in thinking about what your prayer will do, its reality will hit home and you will be more confident to pray (or realise you didn’t want what you were going to ask for).
6. Pray for more boldness.

Anything to add to the list?

 

Notes:
the opening sentence is paraphrasing from Forsyth’s Soul of Prayer, quoted in another very good piece here.
you may also want to read my older post on prayer, which I’ll soon move to this blog along with the comments here.