I remember the first time. My heart started to race, and I could feel the blood leave my face. I could not think.
I wanted to bolt from the room and never come back.
My anxiety rocketed out of control, and I’m sure my blood pressure was off the charts.
“Why did she have to ask me to open Bible study time in prayer?”
This scene plays out nearly every time I am asked to pray out loud in a group. I panic. What do I say? Will they think I am a poor prayer warrior? Will God even be listening?
Maybe you understand the feeling I am describing.
I don’t want to feel this way nor do I relish these anxious thoughts. But, honestly, I don’t think of myself as a good “Pray-er.”
I want to pray eloquent prayers giving God praise and pouring out my heart, and I know that prayer is essential and I shouldn’t be afraid.
In Ephesians 6:18, Paul wraps the armor of God in prayer. To hold the armor together, we are to pray because we cannot fight the battle against the enemy on our own strength. We need God’s help, and when we ask for help, God delivers.
…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
So, I wanted to learn to pray with confidence, both in groups and alone. I know I’m not the first to suffer from a fear of praying. The disciples wanted to learn to pray. In Matthew 6, they ask Jesus “how do we pray.” Jesus then speaks a model prayer, what most call the Lord’s prayer. His prayer includes praise and gratitude, requests, and supplication.
I also know that no matter how I pray, that when I do pray God hears every word. In 1 John 5:14 says, And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. Also, in John 14:13, Jesus assures us,
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
On my quest to end this prayer fear, I read and memorized scripture, and poured over several books on the subject. I learned a lot about prayer!
Here’s a few tips I found that are helpful in silencing the anxiety:
Don’t Overthink It. Prayer is a conversation with Our Creator. He has known us since before the foundation of the earth and is aware of our every need, but He wants us to ask. (Scripture)Also, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, helps us pray when we don’t know what to pray. “ Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. The Spirit advocates for us in pray even when we don’t know what to say. I have to remind myself to relax and don’t try to be impressive, just try to honest.
If you still have trouble finding the words, or you believe your words are weak (which I think often), pray Scripture. Start with the Psalms which are filled with adoration and cries of repentance. Think of David as he prays in Psalm 86, Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Don’t Give Up. Consider this: the definition of supplication is the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly. After Jesus showed the disciples the way to pray, in Luke, He adds a parable about persistence. In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus tells the parable of the man who asked for food from his neighbor. He knocked and was told to go away, but he kept knocking until he got the answer he needed. “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Write it down. In my mind, I am a better writer than I am a prayer. Every morning, I write my confessions, pleadings, and praises in a journal — nothing fancy, just a notebook. By writing my prayers on paper, I can go back and read the history of my relationship with God. Another writer, Flannery O’Connor also wrote her prayers. In the book, A Prayer Journal, her journaled prayers reflect her dependence on God to help her be a better writer. If journaling your prayers is not the best fit, try making a prayer wall using a dry erase or bulletin board. Making prayer list, maybe in a notebook, also helps stay on track when deep in prayer.
Pray Often. Praying often has eternal and personal benefits. Daniel prayed three times each day. He made prayer a practice. Jesus also knew when to separate himself from the crowds and his disciples to pray. Prayer is reviving.
This is not my original idea, but try setting reminders on your phone for prayer time. When you get the alert, stop and pray. Even if its just to ask God for the strength to get through the next hour, prayer will make a difference in your day.
Do Pray Without Ceasing. In the seventh century, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection lived only to be in the presence of God. In the book about his life, “the Practice of the Presence of God,” Henri J. M. Nouwen writes in the Forward, “One of the most stimulating aspects of this precious book is Brother Lawrence’s deep conviction that prayer is not saying prayers but a way of living in which all we do becomes prayer.” This means praying without ceasing, and it becomes a way of life.
This does not mean walking around muttering to ourselves. That would be strange. Instead, consider praying through your thoughts, as Brother Lawrence did. He often gave thanks for things like being able to wash dishes, that there are dishes to wash. Or, when you see something beautiful in nature, stop to say, “Praise You, Father for your amazing creation.” Or, when you see someone hurting, simply think, “Lord, send help and comfort.”
The more time I spend making prayer a practice, the more confident I am when called upon to pray out loud in a group. Sometimes I still get a little tongue-tied, but I’m sure when that happens now, the Spirit picks up the pieces and presents my plea, and the group gives me grace.
Father God, thank you that we do not have to be perfect Pray-ers. All we have to do is come to you with a humble and contrite heart. You hear us and you know us. Forgive us for avoiding the opportunity to pray and be in your presence. We praise you.
Other Resources About Prayer: