The thought of public prayer may paralyze you. You think you will be graded by those who are listening. You can hear them ahead of time: “Aha! I’d give that prayer a C-minus.” You think you will be judged by those who pray with affluence and grace. “Goodness. She obviously has a really shallow walk with God. Did you hear that?!” You even might thing that God is thundering with anger up in heaven at your feeble, fumbling efforts to come boldly to the gracious throne where alone you can receive the help you need. “How dare you come before me and stutter and stammer! I should crush you like a miserable slug!”
But desperate people need to pray. Desperate people have nowhere else to go and have nothing else to do but pray. A desperate situation compels prayer. I don’t mean to be inappropriate, but people say, “Oh, my God!” when they are desperate or scared or confused or shocked. That is a prayerful utterance, even if they don’t understand it to be so, and even if they speak in such terms in irresponsible and unwholesome ways. Yet they pray this prayer out loud in desperate times. We are naturally programed to pray out loud when we are desperate.
The Gospel reminds us that we always stand before God in a state of desperation, and therefore we are always in a position where we need to pray. There is no time in life when we are not in need of grace even if there are times in life when we are more aware of it than others.
Further, it is good to pray, and it is good to learn how to pray better. It is good, I’d think, to learn to do better anything that is worth doing at all. Certainly prayer would fall into the category of things worth doing.
Because we are desperate people and because prayer is good, I would like to encourage you to learn to pray out loud. Notice the desperate cry of the psalmist in this week’s Psalm for prayer.
Psalm 77:1 (ESV)
1I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.
A good way to learn how to develop the good work of praying out loud in public is to begin praying out loud in private. A few moments a day, in the stillness of that corner of your life that you’ve quartered off for a quiet time with Jesus, pray to him out loud. Do it because prayer is good, because you’re desperate for what only he can provide, and because by praying out loud you will learn how to pray better.
You will find that your mind will wander less when your lips are engaged. There is something quite unique about the ears hearing the mouth speak. Your ears are capable of telling your mind whether or not you’re thinking well or whether or not you’re really expressing your desperate state and the greatness of the God who will hear you.
So privately, quietly, but audibly, pray out loud to God. Keep doing it because you’re always desperately in need of God’s grace as well as in need of learning to pray better. Then, when the time comes for you to bless God’s people in public prayer, your mind will be accustomed to leading your mouth to speak well, and your ears will confirm such words fitly spoken.