Every week, while planning our Sunday Worship, one of the most difficult roles to fill is that of corporate prayer. I get a mix of responses when I approach church members with the opportunity to participate in Sunday worship through corporate prayer: “Can you put me on for scripture reading instead?”; “I’m really bad at public speaking”; “Praying is not really my gifting”; “I’m not comfortable doing that”’; “I feel so disingenuous when I pray”; and so on.
Prayer is no easy task.
Public speaking ranks as one of the biggest fears that people have. While many may have a genuine and legitimate full-fledged phobia of speaking in front of people, for some, this fear may stem more from a overly self-critical heart. We get concerned about how people will see us; or it may be how certain people (that we deem of consequence) see us.
What if I pray the wrong thing?
Will people see that I’m not biblically informed in my prayer?
What if I don’t honestly care to pray about those things?
Will people see the hypocrisy in my prayer?
I’m not spiritual enough to pray!
And this preoccupation with our own self worthiness often blinds us from seeing what… or rather who… makes anyone worthy to pray. To think that one could have the ear of the Lord—how pretentious! Even the most well written or well delivered prayers… do you think God is impressed?
We are able to worship in prayer because the work of Christ on the cross has given new life and new identities. The Spirit has been given to us who believe and he works in us to draw us into communion with the Triune God. Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:24 teach us that Christ intercedes for us right now.
Every time we bring our imperfect worship (which is every time), Christ takes that worship—that prayer, that song, that deep sigh—and he sanctifies it and makes it a worthy act of worship before a holy God. Every time we pray, whether it be in our bedroom or with others, we lean completely on Christ; why else do we pray “in Jesus’ name”? We can approach because of Christ!
So what does this mean?
Should we only pray when we’ve learned to have more trust in the work of Christ? What if we doubt? What if we don’t know what to pray? Should we pray only after we’ve figured this all out?
We learn to pray by praying. Just as you will have extremely difficulty learning how to ride a bike from merely reading a book about bicycling (as opposed to actually getting on a bicycle), you will not grow in prayer and trust of our Chief Prayer-er until we practice it and learn how the Spirit moves and changes us as we engage the Living God.
But some of you may still be protesting, “But I’m afraid of doing it wrong.” There is grace for you; there is grace for all of us, his beloved children. When we endeavor to grow in prayer, we must constantly take our eyes off ourselves and our inadequacies and look to the only one who can pray—who draws us into prayer with himself and who ever lives and pleads for us.