Jo Johnson lives in England and serves the Wycliffe Global Alliance as consultant for prayer advocacy. We spoke with her via email about the value of praying publicly and corporately. This post is the second of two parts.
Christians have different levels of comfort about praying with others. What advice could you give?
Praying is not one-size-fits-all. We all have prayer personalities—prayer introverts and extroverts. Those who are extroverted find it easier to pray with other people, easier to keep focused, and feel energized by being with others who are praying. However, even if you are a prayer introvert, there is value in praying with others. A prayer personality doesn’t exclude you from certain types of prayer but makes different ones easier or more challenging.
What are some benefits of praying with others?
There is accountability in praying with others, that you 1) show up; 2) stay the course; and 3) follow through on anything you have prayed about that needs follow up.
It can be difficult to pray about something that is heavy or weighty. When you pray with others it’s like you are sharing that load.
As we pray with others, what they say or pray can provoke ideas of how I should pray. In this way we can often go deeper and further than we would be able to do alone.
Might our idea of prayer be too small?
We can think of prayer as larger than just intercession. For example, encountering God’s presence, worship, waiting on him, meditation, etc., are all types of prayer.
In an American culture that places such a high value on individuality and the one-to-one relationship with God, what could we learn about corporate prayer?
There is much value in corporate observance, in encountering God together, in listening and meditating in light of a group or church, not just for me individually. God relates to the whole body of Christ as a corporate entity and not just as individuals.
In an age where more than half of the population doesn’t pray at all, could you offer any guidelines for how to pray in a public setting?
Remember that we are praying to connect with God, not impress others (Matthew 6:5). So keep it short. Don’t keep repeating yourself, which is easy to do when we feel passionately about something. Keep it simple and don’t feel like you have to use any special language. Even those who are confident in praying with others should keep it short so that no one feels intimidated to pray “longer, louder or better.” Simple prayers are often the most powerful.
It’s often helpful to ask God how to pray before we open our mouths.
I often find it helpful both in private and public to pray a verse. Scripture is always God’s will.
What about praying for someone on the spot, maybe in public, when you don’t know what their beliefs are?
Just assume they are as confident in God’s love and ability to touch their lives. Keep it short, don’t use religious language and know that it’s fine to keep your eyes open if you are in a public context. By that I mean if you encounter them in a shopping mall and offer to pray for them because life is hard, they are sick or whatever, you don’t have to look like you are praying if that would embarrass them or you.
Also, sometimes it’s enough of a demonstration of God’s love that you offer to pray. They may say no, or yes to you praying later when you are alone. But that isn’t failure. If you feel prompted to offer to pray, go for it. Apparently lots of people who don’t know what they believe pray, and even pray daily.
Prayer opportunities at our church
- All-church prayer meetings. 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday evenings in Fellowship Hall. Anyone is welcome.
- Life groups. If you’re not so sure about praying with others, these are a great on-ramp.
- Adult communities. Several groups meet on Sunday mornings and corporate prayer is part of those meetings.
- Pray with someone. Anyone who wants to pray with another person – about anything – can stop at the back of the Sanctuary after either Sunday worship service. Elders and prayer counselors are always available to pray with you.
A final thought
“The church can be renewed. But it won’t be because of a novel method or a new innovation or sociocultural strategy or a wildly gifted preacher. It will only be if a few ordinary radicals have the audacity to live the ancient way in a new time and place.”
Part one: When prayer is all we have