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Prayer and Privacy
Being asked to pray publicly is one of the most frightening things that can happen to a new believer. Furthermore, many people who have been Christians for years do not desire to pray aloud, and shudder to think of being asked. For this reason, I never call on someone to pray if I am not sure they are comfortable with the practice.
Interestingly, the Bible never pointedly addresses the issue, except to strongly emphasize that prayer and privacy are spiritual companions.
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6).
"Beware of the scribes, which... for a pretense make long prayers" (Mark 12:38; 40).
As a preacher, I often pray in public settings. I don't mind doing so, as it is the accepted norm in Christendom for ministers to lead in vocal prayers. I also conduct prayer meetings in which many people openly express themselves to God. This is fine, and Scripture certainly records public prayers on a number of occasions. However, implicit in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ quoted above is the emphasis on prayer being first and foremost a matter of the closet, that is, of intimate privacy between the believer and God. Furthermore, our Lord severely chastens those who profane the holy gift of prayer by pretentiously using it as a means to impress others.
We each have a relationship with God that He purposes to be intensely personal, even as we are all also part of something bigger than ourselves. In the same way most of us don't care to have our conversations with loved ones witnessed by others (notwithstanding the advent of, ugh! Facebook), so God would have our praying relationship with Him to be largely between He and ourselves. Prayer is challenging enough without having spectators who may tempt us to communicate with God in a manner diluted by the awareness that an audience witnesses our praying.
So, for all of you who don't care to pray aloud in public, relax. You're on good Biblical ground in maintaining your spiritual privacy. For those who do pray in public, beware. Temptation awaits us as we approach God outside the personal closet mandated by the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly we may do so, but let us always remember how easy it is to profane the sacred by praying for reasons other than those of the love, holiness, devotion and authentic communication with God set forth by Scripture.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."