Many years ago, when I was teaching high school full time, I discovered I was much more comfortable teaching with my classroom door closed, even though I knew it helped with ventilation to have it open. I wasn’t worried about distractions coming from the hallway. That closed door gave me freedom just to be me, to be the competent loving teacher I can be. It also helped me forget about what someone else might think as they passed by.
Years later, I learned to gain that same freedom to pray out loud with others, by gently closing the doors in my mind, so that I could be with God. As in my classroom, I could just be me talking with God, letting the words of prayer pour forth, listening for God in silence.
When I became an ordained minister, I was often asked to pray with large groups. Whether I was at a special Christmas dance, or a wedding reception, or a conference, or… The expectation has always been, “We need someone to say Grace or pray. We’ll just ask Jan. She’s the professional.” I used to jokingly say, “Other people sing for their supper. I pray.” Eventually, people began to tell me, “You’re good at this public prayer. How do you do it?”
Closing those doors around me, centering on the conversation between me and God in the presence of others is not always easy. In my experience, the hospital always presented the most difficulty. First of all, like many people, I’m not comfortable in the hospital setting. Secondly, and even more importantly, I’m aware that the person in the next bed has no choice but to be at least a witness to this prayer. Still, with practice I learned to focus on God, rather than those listening, even in hospital.
Praying out loud with others can bring such comfort. It’s good to respond to someone with, “I’ll pray for you.” I know from experience, the comfort and assurance that people have expressed because I have had the courage to say, “Let’s pray about that.” It takes two, maybe three minutes, to take someone’s hand and talk with God about the concerns they have expressed. You can even leave a time of silence for listening. I encourage you to try it during Lent. It’s the perfect time. You’ll be grateful that you did.
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1 NIV)