Thursday, April 14, 2011

Of Praying Out Loud and Peer Pressure

When Joey told me about his vision for Prayer Night, a group of friends gathering once a week to pray, the only answer that made sense was "yes."  Except for that pesky minor detail that I hated praying out loud.


So why would I agree to this?  It may have had something to do with my then crush on Joey. More than likely though, it was because I was completely in love with my new group of friends.

I had just started going to the church and was becoming involved with the young adult group.  I spent many fun hours with this group of friends. We relished the time we spent together but also pushed each other when it came to matters of faith.  With friends such as these, you agree to do things just so you can spend more time together. At least it was mostly spiritual peer pressure!

This was not Prayer Night but if you double the amount of people crammed into the room, it would look pretty similar.

The timing of the invitation was not coincidental.  God had been nudging my heart on the prayer front for awhile and I could not ignore this opportunity to grow. Joey probably would have pestered me until I joined anyway!

My distaste for oral prayer was born out of my childhood experience with a charismatic church.  Praying in tongues, oil anointing, the whole nine yards. Prayer was elevated to an art form. (Ed. note: overall I have lovely memories of this church. I learned a lot about God, the Bible, and how to pray. Sometimes I focus on the negatives of this church and that is to my detriment.) Then later, at another church, I witnessed people with silver tongues but hypocritical lives.  In my mind, prayer was best kept between God and me. 

It would be easy to say that my dislike of public prayer was solely born from my church experience.  The seeds were planted there but I continued to sow them.  Because of the flowery prayers I'd heard, I put more pressure on myself to pray beautiful prayers that would move people.  I knew this was not what prayer should be about.  I didn't like facing my pride but I knew I didn't want to be a hypocrite either.  It seemed better to keep my prayers to myself and this became a way of life.  The rare times I did pray aloud, I was nervous, butterflies in the stomach, clammy hands.  My spoken prayers never sounded as good as the ones in my head.

Prayer Night forced me to embrace a new habit.  I reminded myself that it was still between me and God, that the audience didn't matter.  The subject matter was of more import, as was the Listener.  Because I embrace challenge, I would at times volunteer to start prayer. This way I had no excuse not to participate.  Starting the prayer allowed me to speak from my heart.  I wasn't building off of what others said and I wasn't distracted by thinking about what I should pray.  

Some nights we shared personal prayer requests.  Some nights we prayed for our country or current event.  There were the consistent attendees and those who floated in and out from week to week.  What remained the same was our love for God and for each other.

Prayer Night lasted a couple of years before our group succumbed to out-of-state job promotions, marriages, children.  In that time, I grew to look forward to this little community of believers.  I became more comfortable in interceding in front of my friends and on their behalf.

I'm still not a likely candidate for Pray-er of the Year but I am more likely to pray with a friend the moment a burden is presented.  I'm less bound by my childhood church experiences.  I'm more resolute that joining in prayer is an important part of building community and fellowship.

I may not love praying out loud but Prayer Night taught me its role in my life.  And I am richer for it.

This post was written for the Remarkable Faith link-up at Giving Up on Perfect, a series of memories and posts as we approach Lent.

Are you comfortable praying out loud?  What is your experience with prayer?

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5 comments:

  1. Leigh, thank you for sharing this part of your journey with us! I'm not always comfortable praying out loud, either - so I offer to go first, too. I don't have an intimidating or confusing church prayer background; I just have a crazy perfectionist tendency that gets in the way of my heart. If I go first, though, it's just like you say - I'm not building off of (or, in my mind, competing with) what someone else prayed before me.

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  2. I love the sound of Prayer Night! You were fortunate to be surrounded by a group of pray-ers too! Thank you for sharing your experience. Blessings.

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  3. I am totally freaked out by "public speaking" of any kind. I never felt comfortable praying out loud either, but I'm learning to step out of my shell. I've always dreamed of doing some type of ministry work, and I have to be able to pray openly for that to happen! I agree with you: I'm certainly no Pray-er of the year, but I'm always praying and I think it's important!

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  4. @Mary, so glad you hear where I'm coming from! I think it's important to figure out a way to make prayer work for us because it is such a vital part of faith. If we give a little (of our pride, perfectionism, discomfort), we get so much more back!

    @Cindy, Prayer Night was such a great experience. Joey created something special with our group of friends.

    @Sydney, thanks for feeling my pain! Hope you'll see some growth in this area too.

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  5. I'm with everybody else on this one :o) I love my quiet time with God but please don't make me speak with Him out loud and with others around too! I have "lead" a small group in Bible study a few times and so I had to pray out loud. I figured after they heard me, no one els should be intimidated :o)

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