Saturday, August 25, 2007

Praying in Public Dreaded

Everyone sits around the table. We eagerly start to dig in, but then someone says, "Let's pray for our food." Maybe we are a youngster and mother is asking us to pray for the Lord's blessing and give thanks. Maybe we are at a church gathering and the pastor has asked us to do the same. Still, we feel a sense of awkwardness. It comes upon us so suddenly. "Pray? Pray for the food? Give thanks? Uh, ok." And then we rattle off something and begin to eat.

Why is this? Why would we prefer someone else pray? It may seem like something silly to discuss. Who cares -the person just doesn't like to pray in front of others. Well, ok, but why? I have felt this way, and here is what I think is probably operating within the heart, under the covers.

There are ostensibly two classes of reasons for which we would rather not pray, though I believe they certainly interrelate.

First, I believe we may not like to pray before others because of shame before fellow men. We may feel that our words are not eloquent. We may feel like we are spiritual dwarves compared to those we share this moment of fellowship with. We think, "What will they think of me?" Finally, we may feel ashamed because we fear it will become plain to others how little our hearts are drawn to God in prayer. They will be able to tell how rusty our prayer machinery is and how little it is used. They will know how stale we are toward God, and that will makes us feel ashamed. This leads us to the next general reason.

Second, I believe we may not like to pray before others simply because we do not like to pray at all. It may be because we are living in a particular sin. It may just be because our hearts are dead toward God. We know that we have no affection for Him, and we sense that standing before God in prayer essentially strips us of our robe and shines the light of God's eye upon us in our hiding. We know that if we pray, we are standing face-to-face with the Living God, and we know that there is nothing within us which holds scarcely the smallest joy or affection toward Him. In fact, we hardly think of Him at all. Our life is full of so many other things that draw our attention and our heart. We spend our time thinking of what is on television or what thing we will do next for amusement. Or we spend our time thinking solely of what tasks need to be accomplished or what things we would like to get for ourselves. And now, we are put in an uncomfortable position. We must stand before the one who captures almost none of our thoughts at all. It makes us feel ashamed, naked, embarassed, and maybe a bit scared. We know that God is worth much more than that, yet we also know that our hearts are far from Him and are consumed with just about everything else the world has to offer us.

Regardless of how thankful we are for it, let us meditate upon the truth of the gospel and pray that God would rain down His Spirit to open our eyes to its blessedness. That is why we can stand before God, and that is what brings us to delight in Him and seek Him all the more.

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