In a previous article, I wrote about my experience of personal prayer and what I’ve come to understand about it. As far as public prayer is concerned, I have found that over the years my experience of audible prayer has changed from something terrifying into something fulfilling! There’s a great sense of privilege in leading a group of people in prayer to God.
Thinking back to the first few times when I stood up to pray during a church meeting, I remember carefully rehearsing what I was going to say in my head (often word for word!) before finally plucking up the courage to stand up and speak. I’m sure that my words would have been few and faltering, but nevertheless they expressed what I wanted to bring to God, and those gathered would endorse what I had said with an ‘Amen’. This sense of unity and support in a church context is a great encouragement to the person who prays out loud.
Audible prayer in a church context is also beneficial for the church. We know that the Holy Spirit prompts us with thoughts and themes about which to pray, and often during a time of church prayer, themes will be presented by one person and developed by another, almost like a relay runner passing on the baton to the next person in the team. In this way there is a thread that runs through the prayers of the church, and again, the sense of God-centred unity is reinforced.
It’s important to note though that the person who prays at a church gathering has a responsibility, because they are expressing thoughts on behalf of everyone else there. Leading a church in prayer is also a huge privilege, because when we pray collectively, we know that we are approaching the throne of grace (Heb. 4:15) and that God is there among us (Mat. 18:20).
Lastly, on a purely practical note, I find that the act of praying out loud causes me to really focus on what I am saying and how I am addressing God. Perhaps in our private prayers we can find that our thoughts wander, or we go off on tangents. Praying out loud forces us to stay on track with what we intend to say to God, and helps us to remember who it is we’re talking to.
So whilst we know that God hears and values all our prayers, whether audible or silent, praying out loud in a church context is nevertheless something precious to the churches and to God.
Giles Hickling, The Church of God in Manchester