Why It’s Important to Pray Out Loud
A scenario repeats itself in my adult life. A group of Catholics are gathered. They are at table or in a living room. They may be there for a meeting or for some sort of conversation. Someone recognizes the value of starting with a prayer.
And that’s when things fall apart.
Someone asks, “would someone like to start us with a prayer?” Eyes go to the floor. An awkward silence ensues. Finally, someone says, as if to put the group out of its misery, “I’ll do it.”
Then, everyone exhales and the brave soul prays as best they can. The meeting begins.
Have you been in this situation? I’ll bet you have. For Protestants, prayer out loud is not foreign. It’s something you are raised to do. But for Catholics, it’s a different story. Catholics, for the most part, are terrified of it.
When I asked friends on Facebook what they thought of this, their responses were profound:
- “For me it was about modeling. I will also say that it takes a good deal of practice and thoughtfulness.”
- “Lack of a strong, personal relationship with Jesus. I never felt comfortable praying from my heart out loud until I came to love Jesus. Now it’s my preferred method of prayer.”
- “It’s not modeled for us. We’ve only ever witnessed men praying over our family with words from a book. Unless we’ve been given a model through our families or smaller communities, it’s not something we’ve seen.”
- “Most have never seen it modeled in the home by their parents.”
- “I just approach it as if I'm talking to a friend, respectfully but not too distant.”
These are very personal and so many other comments came through. People take their prayer seriously and have strong feelings about it. You can hear the theme of modeling over and over again. If you’ve seen someone pray spontaneously, a seed may be planted in you that will “activate” at some point later in your life.
Second, it’s important to remember, as Merton famously wrote, that “the desire to please you (God) does in fact please you”. Even if a person’s prayer life is immature, it still can catch the momentum to take it further into a relationship with God.
Prayer out loud is important for a number of reasons.
First, it is an expression of intimacy. I can’t think of a “human friend” that I don’t talk to. Second, praying out loud grows our praying heart. It merges our will with our spirit, molding us into more prayerful people. Third, as we’ve seen in the comments above, praying out loud can teach others about the Lord. This will then help them grow in their faith.
Specifically, what can or should we do when it comes to vocal prayer? I suggest three things:
- In your own prayer life, pray out loud more often. This will feel awkward at first. You’ll wonder if people can hear you. Still, try it out. Give it time.
- When you are asked to pray before a meeting or event, offer to lead the prayer. Here’s the catch- don’t prepare anything. Just let it flow. Bring something honest and from your heart. Others will benefit from hearing you talk with God.
- Ban “canned prayers” for your meetings or events. If you are in a position of leadership and you ask someone to lead prayer, tell them not to prepare anything. Tell them to pray spontaneously, from their heart, out loud. By doing this, you’ll be practicing what you preach and modeling vocal prayer among the group.
These suggestions are not exhaustive nor are they meant to be. What they do provide are starting points and reminders.
You can do this. God can do this through you.