Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Fear Of Public Praying

Does the request, "Would you lead us in prayer" strike fear into the depths of your soul?  If it does, you're not alone.

"Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They've got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who is in secret will reward you."  (Matt. 6:5-6)

My first Sunday as a pastor was wonderful. Donuts were washed down with coffee, hands were clasped, and necks were hugged as we gathered for my first official service.  As people introduced themselves, an older gentleman approached me. Coffee in one hand, the other reached out for mine and pulled me close as he said, "Peacha, I need tell you somethin. I don pay." I was confused, "I'm sorry, what?"  "Peaz don caw on me to pay in chuch. I don pay in chuch." I saw his hearing aids and realized why he spoke the way he did. He had been nearly deaf since childhood. "Don't worry," I replied, "I won't do that to you."

He never prayed in church and never attended any of our small groups, because he was afraid he would be called on to read or pray. Yet he was one of the most faithful to serve our church and to attend worship the whole time I pastored that church. Always arriving at least 15 minutes before Sunday School ended, he would pick up a leftover donut, grab a cup of stale coffee, and wait by the button that rang the Sunday School bell. He would munch, sip, check his watch, and ring that bell at precisely the right time. Did he ever pray? Never in church, but he prayed. His wife was sick for many years, and countless times he called me and asked if I would come and pray with them and for them.

I've been teaching and thinking about shameless prayer. There's no reason born again children of God should ever be ashamed to talk to their Father, but does that automatically translate into a desire to lead the congregation or a small group in prayer? I don't think so. As a matter of fact, it may mean quite the opposite.

Confidence in our Father leads to confidence in prayer, and we need to be confidently unashamed to pray. It's just not possible for us to live lives that glorify our great Savior apart from living lives of prayer. I want to know all God teaches about communicating with Him. I want to know where to pray, when to pray, how to pray, and above all to whom I pray. And, I want to share that with our church the next few Sundays. So if you're ever uneasy about prayer, in public or in private, join us as we grow together in Christ through His Word.