Updated: Nov 14, 2019
We love to talk about prayer – the importance it plays for us in communicating with God, and getting right with Him. But if prayer is so powerful why do we so seldom practice it with others?
Outside of a church service, a prayer meeting, or a Bible study, when was the last time you prayed with a friend in public? My Pastor recently described his Utopian picture for the church; the entire congregation joining in prayer, not because they were instructed, but because they understood the value and need to call on our Heavenly Father together.
Several months ago while visiting my friend’s church I couldn’t help but notice the incredible way he engaged with others. I watched ad he wrapped up each conversation in the same way: with prayer. Nik would place his hand on someone’s shoulder and lift them up to God.
I remember thinking that this is exactly what my Pastor envisioned, people praying like Nik was. But again, why don't we? Why is Nik's willingness to pray for others in public the exception and not the norm?
First of all, prayer takes vulnerability.
The essence of praying is admitting that you're weak and that you need God's help. It doesn't matter how long you've been a Christian – this isn't easy to do.
Second, prayer takes belief.
When you've been stuck in a cycle of captivity for a while, you can start to question if your prayer will really make a difference.
These are the obstacles that we face when calling on God, and then when we pray in public, it seems like there is a whole new set of barriers stacked against us. That failure in your life is now not just shared with God, but it's exposed to your friend. In addition, any doubts you have that your prayer will work is further tested as you now need to believe praying is worth more than the perceived awkwardness that you could face.
This is often how I feel. Just a month ago I preached to a church group, and afterwards a friend initiated a conversation with me, which eventually led to him sharing how God had been recently convicting him. As he opened up to me I was suddenly compelled to pray for him right there. However, as soon as this thought came, I reconsidered. I was the guy who just preached, I didn't need to be seen as some 'extra-righteous' guy any more than I already was. I didn't want that.
After our dialogue ended I did write down his prayer request, yet now as I reflect, I'm bothered by how superficial I acted in the moment; I'm bothered by how I let what others might think of me redirect where God was leading me.
So as I criticize the lack of public prayer among Christians, I realize I'm part of the problem. What should be easy is hard. What should be natural feels awkward. What I should be doing, I'm not.