Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is a common fear held by many. But let me ask you, do you have the fear of public prayer? I tried looking for the specific phobia and all Google searches spat out were some obscure blogs about how to get over your fears of praying out loud. Not to sound overly critical but one blogger’s solution to public prayer anxiety was to clasp your hands. Come on, man. You had the audacity to purchase a legit domain name and you’re going to end with clasped hands? Bold take.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I dread praying in public but I find myself on the wrong end of the spiritual spin the bottle. Those few moments of limbo where the authority figure is figuring out who should pray for the meal or open/close the gathering, is the worst part. Again, it’s not that I don’t want to pray, but I can only pray that “God blesses the hands that have prepared the food” or “may this food nourish our bodies” so many times.
I liken public praying to freestyle rapping or an improvised jazz solo; neither one are truly pulled from thin air. In both cases, you are working with a bank of phrases/licks and then you masterfully piece them together to create an illusion of improvised brilliance. And that’s what public prayer is, except, you know, also quite different too.
I realized that I rotate through some go-to phrases/words in my own personal word bank. Similar to Oprah’s favorite things list, I want to share with you some of my “hot” words that will surely get your prayers noticed!
I don’t know why I’m feeling this word so much but it just makes me sound so much more (extraneously) learned. You get that Old Testament vibe from it and tell me that you don’t have the urge to suddenly remove your shoes. The key is to use it in the proper place to maximize its efficacy. Don’t haphazardly toss it while you’re praying for the sandwiches. This is best used as a pre-service, hype prayer.
2. “He must increase, but I must decrease”
What’s not to love here? It’s biblical. It’s humble. It’s God-centric. I mean, this phrase would assuredly illicit at least a few satisfactory “hmm’s” from the crowd. After all, that’s how you know that your prayer is good. Perhaps, if you’re in a more expressive crowd, you’d get a “Yes lawd” or “Amen!”, but this one is a crowd favorite. It doesn’t matter what the context is of John 3:30, just know that you’re echoing the words of John the Baptist and that’s a win in my book.
3. Any words with the prefix “re-“
Repent. Revival. Reorient. Recalibrate. Rejuvenate. Restart. Repair. Redeem. Reform. Remain. Remind. Restore. Relinquish. Rebuke. You get the point. Bonus blessings if you can string at least three to fulfill the alliteration quota. If the group hasn’t fallen prostrate at that point, that’s not on you.
What kind of superlatives are you using? “Dear Father God” is the classic intro but it never hurts to switch it up. Have you tried God of Jacob? Rock of Ages? Jehovah Jireh? Ancient of Days? If you know me, I’m a big fan of originality while avoiding showiness. Just avoid the weird ones like “Dear Baby Jesus” (reference, anyone?) or “Dear Daddy”.
5. Spiritual sigh/pause
This isn’t so much a word that I’ve been vibing with as much as the type of ethos that I want to promote; nothing screams contemplative Christian quite like that dramatic pause. So much can be conveyed through the momentary pause. If you’re mic’d up, hope that it picks up on your breathiness. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of trying to pray to God all the while trying to deal with your own struggles. A dramatic pause means that you’re trying but that you’re also dealing with the pangs of your predicament. Try it out!
6. Search my heart / test me
I’ve been on this “test me, God!” kick. It’s a bit confrontational and aggressive, but it’s definitely a go-to phrase for me. This is especially effective if the worship team subsequently plays “Search My Heart”.
7. Quoting Song Lyrics
I admit that I wasn’t always a fan but I think this tactic has grown on me. Imagine how much more potent your public prayers would be if you unexpectedly inserted a “break my heart for what breaks yours” or “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders”. The trick is to not quote too much of the song because you can either mess up the lyrics or you’re just reading song lyrics with sound corny or you’ll be guilty of being too premeditated.
8. Greek/Hebrew words (that are commonly known)
I admit that I’ve lost a lot of my control over both languages (as if I had much of it when I was a student), but sometimes a hesed or ekklesia. Perhaps you can express your yearning for the restoration of God’s shalom. Don’t go too overboard, obviously. But like a pinch of saffron, these words will definitely help you in your public prayer.
9. Human anatomy = good
Open the eyes of my heart. Soften my heart. Bless the hands and feet of those that serve. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear. I’ve come up with a few of my own. Let me know what you think.
“Give me a nose for your fragrant grace, O God.”
“Lord give me as many blessings as the number of hair follicles on my head, for only you know how many I have.”
“Protect me, O Lord, like my ribcage protects my innards.”
I don’t know; I’m still workshopping.
10. Always close your eyes
Drown out the haters and you’ll be less distracted. Admittedly, I prefer to keep my eyes open while I pray but I’ve been told that it’s a bit too creepy. So I close my eyes and it helps others. I feel like when I close my eyes that other people are eavesdropping on my prayer to God. After all, I don’t pray for them.
Try these out at your next opportunity to pray publicly!