Prayer During A Time of Fear
Overcoming Your Fear of Praying Publicly
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In 2012, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Omaha asked 815 college students to identify their three greatest fears. Far more than they feared heights, flying, deep water and even death, the students feared “speaking before a group.”
If public speaking is the general population’s greatest fear, public praying very well may be its Christian equivalent. And this fear is not restricted to ordinarily timid people. Even leaders sometimes have trouble leading in prayer.
According to S.C. Gwynne’s Rebel Yell, Stonewall Jackson’s pastor once urged more congregation members to lead in prayer during the church prayer meeting.
Afterward, Jackson went to see him, explaining to the pastor his fear of praying publicly.
“But,” Jackson said, “if you think it my duty, then I shall waive my reluctance and make the effort to lead in prayer, however painful it might be.”
At the next meeting, the pastor called on Jackson. His prayer was “faltering, agonizing [and] cringe-inducing.” For several weeks, the pastor didn’t ask him to pray again, not wanting to subject Jackson to what was obviously an ordeal.
So Jackson went back to see him. “My comfort or discomfort is not the question,” he protested.
“If it is my duty to lead in prayer, then I must persevere in it until I learn to do it aright, and I wish you to discard all consideration for my feelings.” From then on, Jackson doggedly continued to lead in prayer, and, though Gwynne reports that he was never eloquent, he managed to become competent.
When it comes to praying out loud in a group, we must begin where Jackson did. In order to gain competence in public prayer, we have to know what we are doing and be convinced that it is an opportunity for our joy and the good of others. Only then will we be constrained to practice until we “learn to do it aright.”
What We Do
What are we doing when we pray publicly? Whether we are praying at a church prayer meeting, a time of family worship with our children, or a gathering at the bedside of a sick and suffering Christian sister, our task is to express to God the unified desire of everyone in the room. The one who prays out loud is the mouthpiece, speaking on behalf of the group, and he is the leader, bringing everyone’s hearts together to the Throne of Grace.
In a group, the prayer of one person becomes the prayer of every person. When I lead in prayer, it is not my job to impress the other people. I don’t have to wow them with my eloquence or amaze them with my theology. I don’t have to prove my spiritual stamina with long prayers or my spiritual brokenness with short ones. It’s not about me.
Instead, I have the privilege of praying aloud while my brothers and sisters stand with me, praying the same thing in their hearts.
Acts 4:24 tells us that the early church at prayer “raised their voice to God with one accord” (NKJV). From the initial “Heavenly Father” to the concluding “in Jesus’ name, amen,” a public prayer is the united supplication of everyone.
Why We Should
Stonewall Jackson began to pray publicly because he was convinced that it was his duty. This same duty—and opportunity—belongs to us. If you are a pastor or an elder, you are called to pray aloud with your church (Acts 6:4). If the Lord has opened your lips, you are called to pray out loud with someone.
But beyond simply seeing our audible prayer as a duty, we should also see it as our privilege and a valuable means of serving one another—even as a joy.
When we pray together, we encourage one another by our faith, we teach one other by our theology, we love one other by our concern and we point one another to the God who tenderly receives the feeble cries of his beloved children.
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So how can we waive our reluctance and make the effort to pray aloud? Here are a few simple bullets to get you started:
- Pray for God’s help. When you know you will have an opportunity to lead others in prayer, pray ahead of time that God would give you the ability to do it clearly and helpfully.
- Resolve to pray. Unless you intend to pray, you ly never will. The silent gaps at prayer meeting will quickly slip away, and your hesitation will pass the privilege to someone else. Instead, determine beforehand that you will pray aloud if given the chance.
- Consider what you will pray. Think beforehand about what thanksgiving, what confession or what request is the concern of the group. Remember, you are expressing what you hope to be the united desire of everyone.
- Consider how you will pray. Search God’s word to see what confidence you have in offering that particular prayer. Does God promise to give his Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)? Then pray boldly, bringing his command before his throne.
- Remember that Jesus is praying too. In corporate prayer, we have the assurance of Christ’s presence (Matthew 18:20). A Christian never—never!—prays alone.
- Just pray. John Owen memorably said that “the prayers of the [weakest] saints may be useful to the greatest apostle.” We serve a God who hears the prayers of widows and orphans, who welcomes the hosannas of little children, and who uses them all to accomplish his great purposes.
Brothers and sisters, let us pray.
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Prayer During the Day
Prayer During the Day provides material for a number of patterns of prayer.
¶ It provides a framework for a daily Quiet Time and Bible study – an Office of Readings.
¶ It is a single order for those who wish to be united with the Church’s daily corporate offering of prayer.
¶ It is a simple order for use during the day, with Night Prayer as a simple evening office.
¶ It is Midday Prayer for those who wish to supplement the saying of Morning and Evening Prayer.
¶ It is a model for prayer at the third, sixth and ninth hours – traditionally called Terce, Sext and None – as used by some religious communities and their associates.
Using Prayer During the Day –
a variety of patterns
Many people have evolved a daily Quiet Time, for reading Scripture and for praying. With this in mind, Prayer During the Day is offered as a framework for personal devotion; it follows a pattern which would be shared with others. In this way Christians can be united in their worship by making use of common lectionary resources and the overall shape of the Church’s year.
Some will use Prayer During the Day as their sole act of prayer and praise. Others will use both Prayer During the Day and Night Prayer in a simple pattern of prayer at the beginning and end of the day.
There will be those who wish to say the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer each day but without lengthy readings.They will be looking to what is sometimes called the ‘city’ or ‘cathedral’ model of office – prayer and praise – rather than to what is sometimes called the ‘desert’ or ‘monastic’ model of office – reading and meditation.
For those who use Morning and Evening Prayer to focus on prayer and praise, Prayer During the Day will become a time for a greater concentration on Bible reading and meditation – an Office of Readings.
Others will use Morning and Evening Prayer with full Bible readings. Prayer During the Day will then become Midday Prayer, perhaps using the short Bible readings printed in the text of the service.
All of these patterns are variations on a common theme – praying the Bible together. A church in which people pray the Bible together becomes a church which is equipped for proclamation and service.
It is in this hope that Prayer During the Day is offered as a simple starting point for common daily prayer.
It is advisable, once choices have been made, to use them consistently for at least four weeks before any change is made.
Opening responses, or another introduction. A Form of Penitence may be used here or in the Prayers.
Either the printed text or another acclamation, hymn or song
¶ The Word of God
A psalm, and one or more Bible readings
The printed text, or a less formal response
Intercessions, a Collect and the Lord’s Prayer
¶ The Conclusion
A closing prayer, dismissal, blessing, or other ending
¶ Notes to Prayer During the Day ↑
A pattern for Prayer During the Day is provided for each day of the week. This may be used on that day of the week at any time of year.
In addition there is a form of Prayer During the Day for each of the seasons of the Church’s year.
This may be used throughout the season or at certain high points: for example, the Easter form might be used on Easter Day, or for the first week of Eastertide, or throughout Eastertide.
A versicle and response is the conventional opening for a short order of prayer of this kind. Alternatively people may to begin by quietly meditating on a verse of scripture.
A Form of Penitence (here) may be used here or in the Prayers.
Praise may include a hymn, song, canticle, extempore praise or the text provided. Hymns for Prayer and Praise, the New English Hymnal and other collections contain ‘office hymns’ which may be used here.
At least one psalm should be included on each occasion.
A daily or seasonal psalm and a four-week cycle are provided.
Two tables making use of Psalm 119 (the great psalm of contemplation on God’s word) and Psalms 121–131 and 133 (the Psalms of Ascent, used by pilgrims on the way up to Jerusalem) on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly pattern are also provided (here).
These are especially appropriate when Prayer During the Day is being used alongside the other offices. Alternatively, part of the psalm provision for Morning or Evening Prayer in the Common Worship Weekday Lectionary may be used, or any section of Psalm 119 may be chosen.
One of the following is used:
¶ The short reading printed in the order.
¶ On weekdays one or more of the readings appointed for Morning or Evening Prayer or Holy Communion in the Common Worship Weekday Lectionary.
¶ On Sundays and Principal Holy Days, one or both of the readings appointed for the Third Service are used (if not used at another service that day).
Personal or corporate Bible study might also take place at this point.
A versicle and response are provided for use after the reading. Other appropriate responses include silence, group discussion, responsive prayer and singing.
The Prayers may include a litany, extempore prayer, or a pattern of intercessions. Forms of intercession are provided here. A General Thanksgiving (here) may also be used. This section should also include the Lord’s Prayer and the prayer provided in the text, the Collect of the day, or some other prayer.
7 The Conclusion
The office concludes with a dismissal, a closing prayer, the Peace
The peace of the Lord be always with you
All and also with you.
These words may be added
Let us offer one another a sign of peace,
God’s seal on our prayers.
or another ending.
¶ Psalm Tables for Psalm 119 and Psalms 121–131, 133 (the Psalms of Ascent) ↑
Over a calendar month
|Day 23||121, 122|
|Day 24||123, 124|
|Day 25||125, 126|
Over a week or a fortnight
Psalm 119 and the Psalms of Ascent may be used over a fortnight as follows:
Alternatively, Psalm 119 and the Psalms of Ascent may be used, together or alone, on a weekly cycle.
O God, make speed to save us.
All O Lord, make haste to help us.
My heart tells of your word, ‘Seek my face.’
All Your face, Lord, will I seek.
A hymn, song, canticle, extempore praise or
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as the Lord;
all creation worships you,
the Father everlasting.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
the cherubim and seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
from Te Deum Laudamus
On any Sunday Psalm 19
|Week 1||Psalm 20|
|Week 2||Psalm 34|
|Week 3||Psalm 115.1-13|
|Week 4||Psalm 116|
When Morning and Evening Prayer are also celebrated, one of the monthly, fortnightly or weekly cycles may be followed here.
Each psalm or group of psalms may end with
All Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.
2 Corinthians 5.17-19a
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.
’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
A Prayer in Times of Sorrow – She Reads Truth – She Reads Truth
Scripture Reading: Psalm 86:1-17
There was a season of my life when it seemed weeping willows were suddenly sprouting on every corner.
At the time, I had just taken up a new habit of running and can remember having to duck my head and step carefully on the trails so as to not tangle my feet on their branches. An artist DaVinci or Monet probably would have been inspired by their presence.
Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of girl who thinks poetically about things pollen. I’m more prone to believe the trees are just standing in my way.
That’s exactly how I feel about sorrow—it had better stay in its own lane. I wish my experience with sorrow was only as extensive as a good cry at the end of a sad movie.
But the truth is my shoulders have been crushed by the weight of grief, leaving me to feel a weeping willow: arms fallen, exasperated, feeble.
I’ve tried not to give myself over to the weight of my sadness for fear I won’t be able to stand back up again.It’s easy to see why we call them “weeping” willow trees. They were first given their name because of the way rain falls from their branches resembling tear drops. However, they grow best near water, able to absorb large quantities of water during floods.
In fact, when strategically planted beside ponds, they can even help to prevent ground erosion. And in a way, our sorrow is that too.
Avoiding it may appear to be the best survival tactic, but taking it in and then bringing it honestly before God is one way He strengthens and grows us.
Protect my life, for I am faithful (Psalm 86:2).
I used to think weeping willows looked crippling sorrow, the kind you never fully recover from. They seemed to be consistently sad, their branches swaying on the ground in the wind.
Yet, now I wonder if the posture of a weeping willow tree isn’t so much a picture of what sorrow does to us, as it is an image of what we’re to do with our sorrow.
Heads bowed in submission to the Lord, we can expose the depth of our sadness to Him without hesitation.
All the nations you have made will come and bow down before you, Lord, and will honor your name (v. 9).
Despite their appearance, weeping willows are one of the fastest growing trees around, gaining 8 to 10 feet per year. This rapid growth may be one of the reasons they have a relatively short life span. But to me, somehow this signifies the promised end of our sorrow. While the layers of sadness that fill us here on earth are many, joy is our eternal posture.
Lord, give strength to your servant (v. 16).
Sorrow stretches us in ways we probably wouldn’t ever choose for ourselves, but it strengthens us all the same. Deep sorrow makes way for great joy.By His grace, may we embrace the sorrow that seems to stand in our way, allowing it to remind us of God’s kindness, of how He strengthens, comforts, protects, and renews us.
In this way, our hope and joy are not far off and distant, but present with us each and every day, just as He is. Amen.
Bring joy to your servant’s life, because I appeal to you, Lord (v. 4).
Scripture Reading: Psalm 6:1-10
When I was a high school senior, I audited an upper-level English literature course at a local college. The professor assigned two novels, both of which were written in 18th-century English, and extremely hard for this 18-year-old to decipher.
Luckily, the professor explained each reading at length, and though much of that course has disappeared from my memory, I’ll never forget a quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
For some reason, it implanted itself in my mind, and I doubt it will ever leave. It reads:
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
What I take from that quote is this: If we could hear “all ordinary human life” it would be deafening. Can you imagine hearing everything? From the simple growth of the grass all around us, to the cries of children in the night from hunger, to the millions upon millions of groans that go up to the Lord each moment? I cannot fathom the sound.
That’s why, when it comes to Psalm 6, I know I’m on holy ground.
I don’t know for certain what left David so shaken that he wore himself out with groaning—although, there are plenty of scenarios to choose from in 1 and 2 Samuel. His best friend’s father was trying to kill him. He had to hide away in enemy territory for decades. The only men who went with him were desperate, indebted criminals (1 Samuel 22:2). In many ways, he was alone in the world.
I don’t know exactly why David wrote this psalm, and I don’t know how you’ll relate to it, either. Perhaps the imagery of crying nightly against your pillow is no imagery at all. Perhaps that’s your reality.Marriages falter under the weight of years of sorrow. Children defy our expectations and hopes. Relationships plunder our hearts, leaving us to clean up the wreckage.
Even the best, most hopeful times of our lives, leave us wondering what lurks around the next corner.
If your eyes are open, if your heart is beating, you know that life is full of perpetual ache. George Eliot said, if we could hear it all, “we should die of that roar.
” But here is the beautiful thing about our God: He hears every single prayer. He catches our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). And though we are unable to bear the weight of that much sorrow, He can.
And He has (Isaiah 53:3-4).
After reading the seven preceding verses about grief, I love the final three in this psalm, how the idea of hope emerges from them. I can imagine David writing them, taking a deep, post-cry breath—you know the kind. Maybe it’s still shaky.
But it fills your lungs with oxygen and enables you to sit up straight and wipe the tears from your eyes.
David rises to face his fears, not because his circumstances have changed, but because he is confident that the Lord has heard his weeping, and accepts his prayer (Psalm 6:9).
Whatever tears you are shedding today, rest in confidence that the Lord hears you clearly. He knows you, accepts you in Christ, wants to commune with you, and longs to be gracious to you, even in the darkest hours (Isaiah 30:18).
Claire Gibson is a writer whose work has been featured in publications including The Washington Post and Entrepreneur Magazine among many others.
An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Patrick, their son, Sam, and their dog, Winnie.
Her debut novel,Beyond the Point, will be published next year.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 23:1-6
Have you ever had everything you’ve ever wanted, yet still felt unhappy? I have. At the time, I was fully aware that most people would take one look at my life and suggest that I had everything I needed, but somehow it didn’t feel enough. It wasn’t that I was ungrateful for what I had, I just wanted—longed for—something more, something else.
I will never forget that morning when I woke up, looked around my bedroom and burst into tears. I was married to a wonderful man. I was the mom of four healthy, happy daughters.
I had friends and family that loved me, and although our lifestyle was not lavish with shopping sprees and shiny things, we were able to live on a single income—just one of the many answered prayers that had filled that season of my life.And in that moment, right outside my closed bedroom door, I could hear my husband of six years, giggling and enjoying an easy morning with our girls—more answered prayers.
So why was I crying? I felt empty and alone, and I felt guilty about both. Although my tears were streaming from a place of discontent, they were also layered with the guilt from the reality of those feelings.
I was ashamed to acknowledge that answered prayers had landed me in one of the most uncomfortable seasons of my life. It seemed as if all I had prayed for was still not enough to fill me up and grant me what I thought it might deliver.
It was in this very moment that God reminded me of what I was desperately seeking. It was a void His presence alone could fill.
I wasn’t looking, but He found me. I wasn’t asking, but He gave me more in a moment than I would have ever asked. I was reminded of these words:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1).
As simple as they are, these words penetrated my soul and began to take up new real estate in my heart. God had answered many of my prayers, yet I’d failed to realize that His promises do not always arrive on smooth paths.
But regardless of circumstances, He does promise to provide His comfort the way a good shepherd does—with a little pulling, prodding, and nudging in the direction He knows is best.
The shepherd’s presence is everything to his sheep.
In the same way, in God’s presence, we need nothing more, nothing but Him. He provides and protects, and His love fills us up to overflowing. When we look to anyone or anything else but Him, we will always be left unsatisfied and wanting.Our Good Shepherd knows exactly what we need—when to get up and when to lie down and rest. He calls us to turn our focus toward Him, to be reminded that His presence is enough.
He alone supplies all the guidance, provision, and comfort we will ever need.
Wynter Pitts is the founder of For Girls You, a resource ministry for both tween girls and their parents.
The mother of four girls herself, Wynter’s mission is to empower and equip women of all ages in becoming who God created them to be, and to support parents in raising strong Christ followers.
She is the author of several books, including You’re God’s Girl Devotional and She Is Yours: Trusting God As You Raise the Girl He Gave You. Wynter, her husband Jonathan, and their daughters (ages 7-13) live in Dallas, Texas. Follow her on Instagram @forgirlsyou.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
Self-awareness. It’s a funny thing—you either have it or you don’t. And if you don’t, it usually takes a pretty embarrassing situation to make you aware that you are not self-aware.
For instance, have you ever been in a crowded room, talking to a group of friends, telling a fantastic story, having the time of your life, when you realize everyone in the room has quieted down because your enthusiastic voice has filled the entire space, distracting everyone from their own personal conversations and—
No? Just me? Cool.
My point is this: Self-awareness can be hard to come by. And when it “comes by,” it can be… uncomfortable.
David wrote Psalm 51 after being hurled into self-awareness by the prophet Nathan. David had just slept with Bathsheba, gotten her pregnant, and ultimately, had Bathsheba’s husband killed to cover up what he’d done.
And somehow, it wasn’t until Nathan confronted him that David was brought to his knees over his sin. Boom. Crippling self-awareness.
This is the context for David writing in verse 3, “For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.”
Awareness of our sin in the presence of a holy God can be an unbearable weight. How could we ever measure up? It’s impossible!That’s why I’m glad David isn’t only writing an awareness of himself and his own brokenness. His self-awareness is accompanied by an acute “God-awareness.” He knows the God he’s approaching.
He comes before God as a man in the wrong, but with an expectation that this holy God, who eternally exists in unapproachable light and holiness, also removes sin, erases blame, and restores joy to those who love Him.
He is a God who unwaveringly desires to have David in good standing with Him.
I don’t know about you, but being confronted with the awareness of my own sin can be an oppressively cruel experience.
Not only am I made aware of how far away I am from the holiness of God (and that distance is light years!), I often compound that feeling by hurling insults at myself, heaping on guilt and shame.
I stand before myself as judge, jury, and accuser, certain that God could never accept me or approve of me because I’m just not good enough. And I wouldn’t be wrong. I’m not good enough. I never will be. I could never meet up to the standards of the holiness of God on my own.
But here’s the good news: God knows that. And He’s made a way for those who love Him to have access to Him in order to receive His forgiveness, which He freely extends through Christ. This is the God we serve.
So when I come before God, humbly aware of my sin, I don’t have to abuse myself, bowing beneath the weight of self-hatred and defeat.
I can approach Him boldly and with confidence because, just David, I have a “God-awareness.” I know the God I come before, and He silences the accusations, dismisses the guilt, and loves me my shame.Not only that, but every time I approach Him in humility and expectation, He makes me more Him.
Erin Rose lives and works in vibrant Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as Worship & Teaching Pastor at East End Fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Erin is a member of Urban Doxology, a ministry that is writing the soundtrack of reconciliation for the church. Her greatest joy lies in leading God’s people in authentic worship, and teaching them the truth found in God’s Word.
She also enjoys eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge.