Question: "How can I stop being nervous about praying publicly?"
Answer: Many people find praying publicly or in a group to be a daunting prospect. Public speaking of any kind is one of the greatest fears experienced by people. Public prayer adds the extra pressure of the spiritual aspect and makes people even more nervous because of the potential impact public prayer may have on others. It should be remembered, however, that although prayer is commanded by God, public prayer is not. In fact, Jesus said when we pray, we should go into a room, close the door and pray in secret (Matthew 6:6). So the first thing to understand about public prayer is that it is not a necessity of the Christian life.
For those who want to join in praying publicly, there are several ways to reduce the nervousness that often accompanies the experience. First, itís important to pray with a group of people with whom we are comfortable, those we are sure wonít judge us for our less-than-eloquent prayers. Praying with others can be a great comfort when we hear our needs being lifted to the throne of grace by those who care enough about us to do so. Others who hear us pray for them are similarly encouraged. A group of people who love one another and accept one another in love and humility will usually ease the fears of those who are nervous about praying in public.
Another way to ease the burden of nervousness is to pray silently in advance of the public session, asking God to direct our minds and hearts to Him and away from ourselves. When we direct our thoughts toward the Creator of the universe and allow ourselves to become immersed in His immense nature, we will find our thoughts and feelings about ourselves diminishing. Our concerns will be more centered on what God thinks of us, not what others think. God loves us with an uncompromising love, and if we belong to Him through Christ, He has put our sin as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and He invites us to come boldly before His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Being mindful that He does not judge us for our lack of eloquence will go a long way toward easing nervousness. Men look at the external, which includes the speech, but God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Finally, many people find that the sheer repetition of praying in public will ease the nervousness. Praying with others can be a very edifying experience, but ultimately prayer is the privilege of communicating with our heavenly Father who sees our hearts and knows what we need before we even ask. He doesnít need to hear eloquence in our prayers in order to bless us and draw near to us. What He asks for is a contrite heart and a lowly spirit, things He will never refuse (Psalm 51:17), no matter how eloquent our prayers.
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