Why We Should Pray in Public as Much as in Private
My bet is when most of us think about prayer, we most often think solely about private prayer. My bet is also that most of us often find good reason to rationalize why we think this way.
“Reason number one,” we say to ourselves, “this is the way Jesus prayed.” We tell ourselves things like: “Jesus always prayed privately.” “He’s always going to a solitary place to pray” (Mk.1:35). “I pray privately because Jesus prayed privately,” we reassure ourselves.
“Reason number two,” we say to ourselves, “this is the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray.” We remind ourselves that Jesus told his disciples to “Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matt.6:6). “I pray privately because Jesus taught us to pray privately,” we reassure ourselves once again.
Reality check: Jesus prayed privately AND publically – and for good reason.
One of the most well know prayers of Jesus, his High Priestly Prayer (Jn.17:1-26), is prayed very publically – enough for John to hear literally every word and record it in its entirety, for all of us to hear.
Jesus also prayed publically prior to raising Lazarus (Jn.11:41-42), so that those around would have the benefit of hearing his prayer. He literally says, “I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, Jesus may have prayed as much in public as in private, and as we’ve said, for good reason.
What are some reasons we should pray in public as much as in private?
1. We learn about God when we listen to others pray
This is especially true when we are young in our faith, but it really never changes. There is always something to learn, and often we learn these things by listening to the prayers of God’s people who have walked with Him longer than we have. Most often, we will meet these kinds of people in prayer meetings.
Side note – this should tell us something about the importance of public prayer gatherings.
2. We learn to think righty about God as we think through what we will pray
Right or wrong, like it or not, most of us want others to think well of our prayers. This means we will naturally spend more time thinking through our prayers in a public prayer gathering than when we pray alone.
We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about this. This is actually a good thing. The more we think about God, and think about what we will say to Him or about Him in front of other people, the more we will want to make sure we’re thinking rightly before we speak publically.
Again, this is a good thing, and we should use this reality for the most good in our prayer life.
3. We grow in our confidence in God hearing about answered prayer
Few things help us to grow in our confidence in God like answered prayer. Hearing answered prayer gives us confidence that God can work in our lives the way He has worked in the lives of others.
Whether it’s a prayer offered up one week and hearing the answer the following week, or someone simply mentioning an answer to prayer as they pray about something or someone else, public prayer gatherings are a great place to hear answers to prayer. As we do, we may hear God’s still, small voice remind us that He can answer our prayers as well.
4. We encourage others in God through the things we pray
I’ve heard it said that real JOY in the Christian life comes from approaching it in that order – Jesus ….. Others ….. Yourself.
When we go to public prayer gatherings, we go first for Jesus, then for others, and also for ourselves.
As we go in this posture, there is no way to know exactly how the things we pray in a public prayer gathering will encourage the people who are there. What we do know is that those who are there are created in God’s image, as we are, and share more in common with us than we think – so our prayers may encourage them more than we think.
What are the benefits you have seen from praying in public as much as in private?