Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Praying Out Loud

Do you feel nervous when asked to pray out loud?

Many, many people do.

That's partly because we view it as a form of pubic speaking - and public speaking tends to make people verrry nervous. I should know - I teach public speaking to college students. And I force back my own feelings of panic to do it myself around the country through out the year.

A survey conducted in 1973 asked more than 2,500 Americans to list their greatest fears. To the surprise of the researchers, the largest number of people listed speaking before a group as their #1 fear. Even above death!

In a more recent study, researchers concentrated on social situations and again asked people to list their greatest fears. Here are the top responses:

   A party with strangers - 74%

   Giving a speech - 70%

   Asked personal questions in public - 65%

   Meeting a date's parents - 59%

   First day on a new job - 59%

   Victim of a practical joke - 56%

   Job interview - 46%

What we're worried about in all these situations is feeling embarrassed, feeling incompetent, and being negatively judged. And all that seems tied to the words we're about to say. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I stammer or the words don't come out right? What if I draw a blank when I open my mouth? We're focused on our words and how they'll be received. We think our words = us.

For years I watched Georgia sing at her church. She sang in the choir, and also in the praise band, and several times a year she would sing a song solo. She never seemed nervous, and I knew she'd been doing this for a long time. So I was surprised one day when she said to me, "Rachel, I don't know how you can get up there and speak in front of all those people like you do. That would make me so nervous." "But Georgia, you do it all the time when you get up and sing - you even sing solos!" I replied. I'll never forget her response: "Yes, but those aren't my words I'm singing."

So one way to handle the praying-out-loud-when-in-a-group nerves, is to pray someone else's words. Pray verses from the Bible. Or at least truths from the Bible.

You can do that quite simply. You don't even have to have the verses (or their location in the Bible) memorized. For example ...

"Lord, you said when we ask for wisdom, you will give it to us (from James 1:5). Please give so-and-so wisdom in this situation."

Or, "God, you said we could come to you when we are overwhelmed and that you would give us rest (from Matthew 11:28). Take so-and-so's troubles and worries today and let her rest."

Or, "Lord you promised in the Bible that you would comfort us (from John 14:18). So-and-so is having a hard time right now, please comfort them now in Jesus' Name."

Those 3 prayers right there could cover a multitude of situations and prayer requests.

I think the best piece of advice I can offer those of us who feel nervous to pray out loud is to remember that this is about the person or situation we are praying for, not about us and how well we pray. So it's necessary that we shift our focus from ourself and how we might be perceived by others, to the object of our prayer or to the One we are praying to.

Finally, if you are praying in a group where several others have already spoken, and nothing more comes to your mind to pray, just pray, "God, I agree with these prayers, in Jesus' Name."

Remember that we don't have to say a lot or use eloquent speech to be effective in prayer. Jesus told us that. In fact, one of my favorite things to pray - indeed probably the most powerful thing I can pray - is: "God, may Your will not ours be done in this situation. Your plans are best."

*If this post was helpful, consider reading my book: IT'S NO SECRET.


  1. Saying the right thing or even knowing what to say are my biggest fears. So heaven forbid I make eye contact when it is asked for someone to pray. The crack in the floor is much more interesting. Your advise here will come to my mind the next time I may be put in this situation.

    I recently left a prayer request on the P31 site and Renee contacted me. This ministry has been such a blessing to me for the past couple of weeks. Maybe she remembers me, maybe not. God knows my heart and my needs now. I no longer hesitate to ask for prayer because it is evident God is working in my life through the prayers of others. So, thank you in advance for your prayers.

  2. Rachel,

    Your words are so comforting. You are making prayer such a real and acheivable commitment to make. Another simple prayer is "speak Lord for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:10); then just listen...


  3. How very interesting that all the top fears deal with our feelings of embarrassment, competency, and judgement. Very interesting. Surpised by some of the orders...I guess people care more about their date's parents' opinions than having a good job interview...odd.

    Love what you suggest for praying. Praying God's word alone is a wonderful and POWERFUL thing as Beth Moore has so often taught us also.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dear Rachel, I am new to the p31 ministries, and new to this blog. yesterday i posted a comment on praying in public and asked for your prayers. truth be told i really wasn't expecting your next blog to be on that very thing. i feel like it was written just for me. I feel like God is using you to help me through my uncertain time Thanks again

  5. You know, I used to fear praying out loud -- didn't matter whether the group was of 2 or 300 -- my nerves were awful. In my ladies groups I have had the sweet blessing to be around some "pray-ers" -- you know the one who are so beautiful, eloquent and timely. I knew my prayers would not sound like that. And then I became a women's group leader and people looked to me to pray...cuz that's what leaders do, right? LOL! And then God whispered a truth to my heart that I needed. I had to learn in order to pray out loud. He is interested in my heart, not by vocabulary or delivery. Whew! Pressure off.
    Now I'd love to tell you I never get nervous anymore and in time I have become on of those "pray-ers". BUT, my stomach still churns often and I still stumble over my words and thoughts. But you know what changed? When I close my eyes I now talk to God and not the room full of people. That's awesome, for me! :)
    Great topic Rachel, thanks!

  6. I use to get really nervous about praying out loud. Mostly it was because the only time we prayed growing up was on Christmas and Easter as a thank you for the food. I became a Christian in junior high. Every Sunday, the junior high and senior high met as a group for prayer. (Take into account that I was EXTREMELY shy and backwards). One day a youth leader asked if I would pray. I said I didn't want to. He insisted. I repeated not wanting to. It didn't matter. When everyone gathered, he announced I would open us in prayer.




    My fear overcame my normal toe the line to authority figures. I didn't even try to pray again until my sophomore year in college.

    But I am so glad I finally learned to do it and care more about what God thinks than others.

  7. This was great!!

    I'm looking foreword to the Shari visiting your blog! Love that girl!! =)

  8. Praying out loud started as one of the hardest things I have ever done...now I find it one of the greatest blessings the Lord has given me.

    We tend to focus on ourselves as we step out and pray aloud. But if you have ever had the privilege of someone praying aloud for you, you know how powerful and what a blessing it can be. There is no greater gift to give a friend than to grab her hand and join her in taking her deepest needs and lifting them to the Lord. It unites hearts and knits us together in an intimate, beautiful way.



  9. Dear Rachel Olsen
    Its really encouraging ......often times i drew back praying in congregation coz i felt nervous.

  10. My husband is extremely bashful about praying out loud, even with only me. When I asked him about it, he said that he never knew what to say, didn't want to use those old cliche' prayers, and didn't want to sound dumb or repetitive. So I lead out with praying in our home and often at work or Sabbath School. As a formerly shy person, I just close my eyes and talk to God like it's just me and Him in the room. When I pray with my heart, it doesn't seem difficult at all.
    God bless,

  11. I find it odd that I don't have big fears of speaking in front of people - but I do have big fears of praying in front of people.

    It's also odd that I haven't thought of simply praying scripture when I'm asked to pray in front of a group. Thanks Rachel :) I'm always super blessed by your insights.

    Blessings to you,
    Kate :)

  12. I love your insight into prayer. I actually just linked to you from my blog. Oh I can't get enough!

    Do you have a link to your upcoming speaking offerings?

  13. My boyfriend was put on the spot at church one Sunday night at church. They asked him to dismiss the service. He didnt know what to say and was so embarrased. I felt so bad for him.


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