Public prayer builds on private prayer, which I touched on last week. By ‘praying in public’ I don’t mean on street corners or in parks, though that could be part of it. I mean praying with other people, be it a few friends at a Bible study or in front of a congregation. Here are some pointers I’ve picked up that may be helpful:
Plan ahead of time
If you know beforehand that you shall be offering a public prayer, prepare for it. A well-ordered prayer isn’t a distraction to those participating and is also more likely not to be exceedingly lengthy.
Use ‘we’ and ‘us’ rather than ‘I’ and ‘me’
You’re speaking both to God and to the people around you. You’re speaking to God on behalf of those around you, so include them in your choice of pronouns.
Avoid the overuse of certain words and forms of expression
Don’t use God’s name as punctuation. Drop the habit of saying ‘just’ every other two seconds.
Vary your use of God’s name
There are so many to choose from: Father, Lord, God, Shepherd, Rock, Refuge, Shelter, Creator, King, Redeemer, etc, etc. Meditate on the psalms for more ideas.
Pray in the language of scripture
Even the people in the Bible pray the Bible back to God, a point I learned while reading Nehemiah 9. Similarly, Mary’s song in Luke 1 echoes Hannah’s in 1 Samuel 2; Jesus on the cross uses Psalm 22:1 and 31:5; The early church in Acts 4:24-30 cites Psalms 146 and 2. Turn key phrases and precious promises into prayers, or adopt the prayers of the Bible as your own (e.g. Psalm 103 as a prayer of ressurance).
Don’t turn it into a soapbox
Don’t use the opportunity to rail against someone or something, or to expound on a point of teaching. That’s not the purpose of prayer.
Start in private
If your private prayer life is unhealthy, that will affect your public prayers as well.