My daughter Gloria has two types of voices. She uses a soft voice for the public. She employs a loud voice for the home. You know how comfortable she is around you based on how loud she gets.
We were reminded of this dynamic on a recent trip to the beach. Before a meal, I asked who wanted to pray. Gloria volunteered. I am sure she prayed a very sincere and
Apparently, my son Obadiah couldn’t either. As soon as she finished, he said, “You know, Gloria, I couldn’t hear anything you just prayed. You were too quiet. You need to learn how to speak up.”
Without missing a beat, she looked at him and chirped back,
“Well, I wasn’t talking to you anyway.”
We erupted in laughter. The tiniest member of our house understood prayer better than most adults do.
Prayer is not talking to one another; prayer is talking to God.
Public prayer is not talking to others about God. It is talking to God in front of others. It is no different than when my daughter is walking and talking with me. You might eavesdrop on the conversation, but she is talking to me.
Of course, we are all guilty of trying to impress others with our prayers. Jesus even warned against such a misguided agenda.
5 “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. 6 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.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. -Matthew 6:5-8
How do you avoid making prayer a spectacle?
- Pray more in private. The more you pray in private, the more natural your prayers will be in public.
- Don’t transform into someone else. If your prayer language sounds like you morphed into another character, it might come across as a performance.
- Pray to the point. If you are including repetitive phrases and impressive vocabulary words to impress all those listening, we can tell. Plus, Jesus said that if your intention is to receive the applause of men you will forsake the audience of God.
- Pray genuinely. Don’t heap up empty phrases. Pray what you mean and mean what you pray.
- Focus on God. This may seem obvious, but it really isn’t. When you pray publically, try to keep God at the center of your focus.
When you pray in front of others, remind yourself that you aren’t talking to them, you are talking to him.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.