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How to Shake Off Public Prayer Anxiety

Does the thought of praying out loud make you break into a cold sweat? Do you duck out of the room anytime someone asks for volunteers to open the Bible study in prayer?

Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, praying in public can be a daunting task. Before we get to how to pray in public without anxiety, let’s first discuss why we should be willing to pray publicly.

Why Should We Pray Publicly?

Praying out loud in public encourages all believers. Whether it’s around the dinner table with your family or with your best friend, it can be extremely encouraging to hear another person pray for us and about us. I liken it to feeling God’s arms around you in a warm hug.

Praying out loud in public encourages the person praying. Have you ever noticed how when you talk to yourself aloud, you listen to yourself more? When I pray out loud in public, I hear myself in a way I don’t always do during silent prayer. Sometimes, those public prayers stick with me longer than the internal ones too, reminding me throughout the day of what I’ve prayed.

Praying out loud in public is a powerful witness for Christ. When I was a kid, my parents would make us hold hands while my father said grace in a restaurant. As an adult, we do the same thing with our own children (and without them too). It’s a subtle witness of our relationship with Christ, one we hope our behavior during the rest of the meal reinforces.

Now that you’re convinced praying in public is good for you as a Christian, let’s discuss how to shake off public prayer anxiety.

13 Ways to Shake Off Public Prayer Anxiety

1. Practice praying out loud by yourself. What’s one of the top ways public speakers overcome anxiety? By giving their speeches to an audience of one—themselves. The same can be true for Christians anxious about saying prayers in public. Start by praying to yourself out loud in your bedroom, taking a shower, or any place you’re by yourself. Hearing yourself pray can help ease some of the fears praying in public can trigger. If you’re really nervous about how you sound when you pray, you can record your prayer and listen to it later.

2. Include public prayers with your family. A great way to ease into prayers in front of others is with your family. When our children were very young, we started having everyone take a turn praying after our family devotions. In the beginning, it was awkward for them to figure out how to remember the prayer requests and how to formulate their prayers. However, as they’ve grown, it’s been thrilling to see how our kids, now teenagers, have become more comfortable with praying out loud.

3. Recognize you’re not alone. Many people don’t like praying in public for a variety of reasons, so you’re not the only one who doesn’t want to do so. If you ask around, you’ll find others who avoid public prayer too. Sometimes, acknowledging it’s a fear most of us has can help us overcome our tendency to say no to praying in public.

4. Keep your prayers short and sweet. We sometimes think we have to pray long prayers packed with what people used to call “fifty-cent” words. Wrong. There’s nothing in the Bible about prayers needing to be a certain length or containing particular words. The most important thing is to pray from your heart. God doesn’t care how long our prayers are, only that we’re seeking to talk to him when we’re praying.

5. Prayer Scripture. One of the best ways to ease anxiety is to pepper your prayers with Scripture. Find a few verses that address many of the usual prayer requests, such as Philippians 4:6, and memorize them or have them handy to use as part of your prayers. Quote the verse or verses directly or paraphrase them as you pray.

6. Pray The Lord’s Prayer. There’s nothing better than using the prayer Jesus taught his disciples as the prayer you say in public. You can add a “new” beginning or simply recite the prayer. This prayer, though recognizable by most believers, is packed with the essential truths of the gospel and applicable to every prayer situation. (For more, see “11 Simple Prayers for New Christians.”)

7. Write out several prayers. Popular times for public prayers include mealtimes, the start of Bible studies or Sunday school, and for others’ prayer requests. Compose a few short prayers that address these types of opportunities on your phone’s notes app, and you’ll always have them at hand if called upon to pray. And if you feel weird about reading your prayer, remember many pastors also write out their prayers as part of their Sunday sermon.

8. Focus on one specific prayer request when asked to pray for a person. I used to not like to pray out loud during group prayers, mostly because I was sure I would forget a request for whoever I was praying for. Perhaps you have that concern too. Later, I realized God knows all their needs, and that it’s okay for us not to specifically mention each and every one during our prayer. Now when I’m in a group and it’s time for prayer requests, I don’t sweat it if I only recall a couple when praying out loud.

9. Jot down your specific concerns about praying in public. Sometimes, simply naming our fears when it comes to public praying can help us overcome those concerns. Make a note of all your worries about talking to God in public. Ask God to help you move past these concerns so you can pray on occasion in public.

10. Employ calming methods before praying in public. If I’m feeling a little uptight about public praying, I take a few seconds to breathe deeply before opening my prayer. It helps to center me and calm my nerves, so I can concentrate on my prayers. There are many tips and tricks out there to become calmer ahead of public speaking you could use before praying out loud.

11. Focus on God, not the audience. We can become too attuned to others when praying when our focus should be on God. Keep in mind he doesn’t care if we flub our lines or mix up someone’s name or forget to actually bless the food during grace. He simply loves to hear from his children. In fact, thinking of God as our heavenly Father delighted to have a conversation with us can ease our anxiety about public (and private) prayer.

12. Don’t fear a little silence during your prayer. Silence can be your friend during public prayers. It’s okay to pause to regroup your thoughts while praying aloud. Quietness during prayer can help us reorient ourselves to God.

13. Remember, everyone present wants your success. No one wants you to “fail” when you’re praying out loud. Most, if not all, of the people there are praying along with you (Matthew 18:19-20). Knowing your “audience” is also agreeing with you as you pray should be encouraging to us.

Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock 

Sarah Hamaker is a national speaker and award-winning author who loves writing romantic suspense books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s also a wife, mother of four teenagers, a therapeutic foster mom, a UMFS Foster Parent Ambassador, and podcaster (The Romantic Side of Suspense podcast). She coaches writers, speakers, and parents with an encouraging and commonsense approach. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.

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