You see, prayer intimidated me. I saw prayer as a time of stripping away my veneer of self-sufficiency. Not only was I revealing my needs and requests to God to those who were gathered around in the prayer circle, I felt as if I was exposing part of my true sinful-self to the body when I prayed aloud in a group-regardless of what I was praying. I felt like a fraud, coming before God, like I could, like I had the right, like I was clean enough to approach his throne with my requests. I felt like a hypocrite. I knew I was none of those things (clean or righteous...still am a hypocrite though) and I felt so fake. Reading through books on grace, singing hymns and reading scripture, I think I understand I bit better that that is exactly where God wants me to be - before his throne. Unlike Kind Xerxes and Esther, I have no doubt that God will listen to my request.
I wonder if others are reluctant to pray in public because of these same feelings. I'm teaching our confirmation class and my students almost without fail will not pray in a large group. Dave and I started a prayer time in the evening and we're the only ones attending. When Dave asks others to pray in church there's a big pause and ah, well, ah, no. I know folks can be shy but is there something deeper, something that taps into our misunderstanding of God's grace that causes public prayer to be a major stress issue?
I'm not saying I have this thing licked. Gosh, if I were at a presbytery meeting you probably wouldn't find me praying in the pulpit, let alone in a large group. I still feel a bit like a charlatan in prayer. But then I guess that reveals I am still praying to the crowd and not to my King. Ahh, there's the rub. What is prayer? Conversation with my Maker. And only to Him. When I close my eyes, sink into the reality of what prayer is all about, lose sight of who is beside me, in front of me, then my prayers transcend and in some ways I find myself praying back what I sense the Holy Spirit giving me. The words, the groans, the supplications begin with Him and flow through me back to Him. I am just a conduit of His, repeating His desire, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And often times knowing I know so little, my understanding is so limited that I find my prayers simply, Thy will be done!
The wondrous thing about prayer is that we are totally unworthy to approach, by our own works or faith. It is only because of what Jesus did on the cross, repairing our broken relationship and mediating between us and the Father so the Father sees the Son when we come before Him. This is Good News indeed.
I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is." Charles Spurgeon