Praying in public, as well as in private, can enrich your life with prayer mentors and prayer partners.
Posted in , Nov 15, 2016
Praying alone—in private, in your “closet,” as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:6)—is the flour and sugar of your prayer recipe, so to speak. Private, personal prayer is the staple of any healthy prayer life. But it takes more than flour and sugar to shake and bake a good prayer cake, if you’ll excuse the mixed (and possibly very inappropriate) metaphor.
This point was recently driven home to me in a new way. My wife, the lovely Robin, and I were visiting a church a few hours from home. I was honored to have been the preacher of the morning, and my sermon was concluded with a sweet prayer service led by a man who had been a beloved teacher in our years of ministry training.
As he led the prayer service, I was overwhelmed with the realization of the ways my prayer life had been shaped, influenced and enriched by his example. I remembered listening—and peeking—as he prayed in worship services and classroom settings, his tone sometimes gaspingly intimate or shockingly audacious, his face often reflecting agony or rapture. Not that his prayers were always eloquent, either; sometimes he stumbled and stuttered in prayer, but even those moments were a rich lesson. I recalled wishing—and knowing I was far from alone in my wish—that someday I might know God and speak to Him and hear back from Him as that man did.
I wouldn’t say that God has fully answered those long-ago longings, but I do know this: if I had not had the duty and privilege of attending those prayer meetings, worship gatherings, and Bible classes, my prayer life today would be different. That man’s prayers showed me what prayer could be and how it was done and what it could do, not only in the world around me, but also in the world within me. His prayers—and those of others, whom I could name—made me hungrier for God.
This, it seems to me, is one big and profound reason to participate in prayer meetings and prayer vigils and prayer seasons and prayer breakfasts and so on. Hearing the prayers of others—even (or especially, perhaps) when they come from a different place or have walked a different path than you have—can teach, enliven, and inspire your praying, both public and private. Praying with others can enrich your life with prayer mentors and prayer partners. And, believe it or not, it may even be the means by which you become an example and mentor in prayer to others.