Several weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of praying out loud with your children:
Prayer is the heart of a relationship with Jesus. How can there be relationship without communication? If we want our kids to develop a relationship with Him, they have to become comfortable with prayer, and that is much less likely to happen if they only hear prayers in church on Sundays. Praying as a family is critical.
Despite the importance of family prayer, it has been very difficult for me to overcome my fear of praying out loud, even when the “audience” only involves small children and a husband. I know many people have this fear, so today I’m sharing nine things I have found helpful in getting over it. Don’t let your prayer discomfort minimize your opportunity to give your children the life-long gift of a rich prayer life!
1. Pray out loud when you’re alone.
If no one is around to hear you pray, do you feel comfortable praying out loud in front of yourself? I found one day that I couldn’t even do that! Start praying out loud when you’re alone and you’ll eliminate the surprise of hearing your own voice before you actually pray in front of someone else.
2. Accept that you don’t have to pray like other people.
I’m not a poetic, beautifully-flowing-praise-language kind of person. The problem is, it seems like everyone I hear praying out loud is. That has developed an expectation in my own mind that prayer needs to sound beautiful. My prayers sound conversational. When I accepted that and no longer tried to pray like other people pray, it became much easier. Pray out loud just like you would pray silently.
3. Keep your prayers short. Really, it’s OK.
I’ve mentally made it into such an event when I pray out loud that I feel like I really have to go all out and say something big when I do it. When you go long for the sake of going long, however, you end up saying things that are less heartfelt, less natural, and more awkward. Then you don’t want to do it again. Whenever you would normally end a silent prayer, end your verbal prayer.
4. Try new types of prayer on your own before trying them out loud.
I would like to start praying over my children at night, to give them the blessing of a prayer said just for them. However, I don’t currently pray for them unless there is a specific need, such as healing. The thought of suddenly praying out loud for conceptual things like their spiritual development and discernment is intimidating and keeps me from doing it. I’m going to start praying for them on my own for a while until I feel comfortable enough to pray audibly over them.
5. Write down what you want to pray about before you pray.
If part of your fear relates to just not knowing what to say, it is immensely helpful to write down a set number of things that you want to pray about before you get started. This works really well when praying out loud with kids, because they are in the same boat of uncertainty as they learn what prayer is all about. Work with them to create the prayer list, then use it to pray together out loud.
6. Embrace the opportunity to pray out loud when you are especially troubled.
This might sound counterintuitive, but chances are, it’s easier for you to pray out loud when you are the most troubled. Why? Because you know exactly what to talk about. There is something very specific on your heart at that moment. It’s often most intimidating to pray when there is nothing wrong because the sky is the limit on things to be grateful for and things to praise God for. Where do you even start? Embrace the opportunity to pray out loud when you have something very specific to talk about!
7. When praying for others, ask them for one specific prayer request.
There may be nothing more terrifying to me than being placed in a situation where I’m asked to pray with or for another person directly (e.g., at a retreat, in a small group, after church, etc.). It’s very difficult to be thrown into a prayer situation you aren’t prepared for. Unless you’ve already ducked out to the bathroom, ask the person for one specific thing they want you to pray for to avoid an onslaught of requests you fear you won’t remember. Their specific answer will help you feel more prepared.
8. In the context of family prayers, try leading a “round-table” style.
When we pray at night, we often do a round-table prayer where the person leading the prayer says a simple introduction and then says, “…and Nathan would like to thank you for (Nathan gives thanks)…and Kenna would like to thank you for (Kenna gives thanks)…” and so on. This is a great way to ease into praying out loud because you are only acting as a “facilitator” of the prayer. It’s less pressure for you, and gives your kids the opportunity to get used to praying out loud themselves.
9. Start with meal time prayers.
If the idea of any audible prayer makes you shudder, simply start with meal time prayers. You can do it: “Dear God, Thank you for this food. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Say it with your children, say it with your spouse. But say it. Even those few words will open the door to more comfort with praying out loud.
What barriers do you have to praying out loud? What has helped you become more comfortable?