4 Things to Remember When You Pray Out Loud With Other People

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My friend Eric has been asking me for weeks now how to pray out loud. I’ve said things like, “Whatever you say is good” and ” “They’re aren’t any rules.” And when I say those things he looks at me from the corners of his eyes like I am most definitely lying. 

I promise I’m not lying, Eric. There are no secret rules. But, having thought about it (and asked wise friends), I suppose there are a few things you’d do well to remember when you lead other people in prayer.

Here are four:


1. We’re rooting for you.

Nothing will shut down a prayer quicker than the voice in your head wondering what everybody’s thinking. Let’s nip that in the bud: Do you know what they’re thinking? They’re thinking, “I’m so glad he volunteered to pray so I don’t have to.”

People are glad when other people pray. They’re glad to be prayed for. They’re glad to be led. They feel connected to you as you pray for them, and by the end, they’re so full of love for you they can’t even remember those first few sentences that didn’t really make sense.

Yes, a handful of people are critiquing your grammar or the “quality” of your prayer. Those people are stupid.

God is rooting for you, too. And He’ll take care of the self-appointed prayer police.


2. Prayer is not a performance.

Lucky for you, right? There are no score cards, no judges, and no chance of an awkward silence at the end (there will probably be silence but it won’t be awkward).

That also means no applause; so don’t pray to entertain or impress. Jesus says if you want to pray to be seen by others, go right ahead but the attention you get in the moment is all the reward you’ll get—not the attention and blessing of God. 

Because prayer isn’t a performance you don’t need to use fancy words. Use your words. You don’t need a big, affected voice either. Just talk. 

And finally, don’t worry about following the unspoken but obvious prayer scripts you hear in worship services or in prayer circles. You can pray quite well without ever saying “guide, guard and protect us” or using the word “just” like salt (liberally). Say what you want to say. Chuck the scripts. 


3. You’re not alone.

You say, “Exactly. How could I forget?” But you’d be surprised how quickly you might. Close your eyes and five seconds in you’ll find yourself praying like this: “God, I want to thank you. I praise you. I pray for John. I ask you to help him….” And on and on, the first person singular pronouns spill. 

When you pray on the behalf of a group of people, remember that they’re all praying with you, not listening to you pray. Channel The Lord’s Prayer and say “our” and “us” and “we.”

{And don’t forget to speak up so we can hear.)


4. Buddy the Elf Was Right: ”If you can [pray] alone, you can [pray] in front of other people. There’s no difference.”

This is so true. If you can do it at home or in the car, you can do it at small group or on Wednesday night at church. But this isn’t just an encouragement, it’s also an admonition: you have to pray alone to pray well out loud.

A few months ago a friend asked me to pray at an event. She asked on the spot, and I said yes without hesitation. About thirty seconds into the prayer I knew something was wrong. I kept faltering. I didn’t feel comfortable. As prayers go, it was pretty bad. After the prayer ended I wondered what happened and I realized pretty quickly what it was: I hadn’t been praying at home. I’d let my prayer life slide and it was immediately evident in my public prayer. 

Talking to God is just like talking to a friend. Every time you talk makes the next time easier. If you don’t talk to God in private, in public the awkwardness shows.

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So there you go, Eric, four things to remember when you pray out loud. It’s not an exhaustive list, but I think it’s a push in the right direction.

P.S. If you’re an experienced out loud pray-er (or a newbie getting your prayer legs) and you have out loud praying tips, be sure to share in the comments! Also, here’s a link to an article I really like: 9 Ways to Get Over the Fear of Praying Out Loud.