But no matter how well I did or how confident I felt, I always hated getting called on in class. I would occasionally raise my hand just to let my teachers know I was paying attention. But I spent the rest of the time avoiding eye contact and praying that my name wasn’t called.
Unfortunately, I still find myself trying to avoid getting called on. But this time it is not about knowing the correct answer, it is about the anxiety that comes with praying in public. What if I say something stupid? What if I stutter? What if I forget that I am praying in public and I start saying all kinds of personal stuff? What if I completely mess this up?
To be clear, I am always honored when I am asked to pray in public. When a Christian brother or sister respects me enough to ask me to lead a group in speaking with the Creator of the universe, I am honored and humbled beyond belief. It truly blesses my heart.
However, that does not go very far into helping my anxiety about the matter. So to make myself feel better, I’ve decided to make a list of the most common types of public prayer. Hopefully, I can use this list to guide my own public prayers. Or…I can use it as a list of techniques to avoid. Either way, let’s get started.
1. The Wordsmith – This one is possibly my favorite, as I am a huge fan of rare and interesting words. When a Wordsmith prays, it feels like the entire congregation is taken on a magical journey through the missing pages of a dictionary. The adjectives with which they describe God and His work are so unique that you must simply accept that they are real words in order to avoid being judgmental during prayer. And when context clues do not suffice to provide you with a definition, you find yourself nodding in agreement based solely on the assumption that God loves big words.
2. The Norman Martin – For those of you that do not regularly peruse random Wikipedia pages, Norman Martin was the writer/composer of “The Song That Never Ends.” It is not that Norman Martin prayers are not important. They just tend to get repetitive and go off on tangents. It can feel like they go on forever, even if it is just a few minutes. (Wait…did I just describe this blog?) When a Norman Martin prays, you start to notice others in your pew leaning on the pew in front of them, sitting down, and yawning. Then you find yourself trying to nail down what you are having for lunch. This is a sad, but true reality. Norman Martins...bless their hearts.
3. The Racer – Racers are normally only identified at the end of a service. Their prayers are very short and sweet, and they often speak more quickly than they do in normal conversation. It is very common to find out later on that a Racer is in a hurry to get to a meal, a game, or a fishing pole.
4. The Philosophizer – Philosophizers have their heart in the right place, but they often tend to out-think the room. Feeling the need to relate their prayer to the message they just heard or the focus of the meeting that is wrapping up, they often speak in circles about the general topic as they search for a clever way to tie everything together. Sometimes they get there, sometimes they don’t. But waiting to see where they end up is always an entertaining venture.
5. The King James – I have a news flash for all of you, Jesus never said the words “thee” and “thou.” Those are words from England in the 1600’s that represented a translation of the other Bibles that were available at the time. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus Himself did not carry a King James Bible around Rome. So when you start praying in Ye Olde English, please be prepared for some medieval heckling.
Regardless of what type of prayer you are, you should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about what you say or how you say it. You have been asked to speak to your Heavenly Father. It is an honor and a blessing that we can communicate directly with Him. Say what is on your heart, and do it in Jesus’ name. Amen.