Lent: Day Twenty-one

Yesterday I discussed how I was surprised to discover how much I enjoy solitude and I wondered if that was odd for an extrovert. Thinking more along that line I found that I prefer my interactions with God to be in times of solitude.

Even though I am an extrovert, I don’t like expressing my personal spirituality (praying mostly) in public. It is not that I can’t pray well in public but I find it surprisingly uncomfortable, even to the level of saying grace. It always feels forced and artificial, while private prayer, whether silent in my head or aloud, but alone, which I am doing more of lately, feels right and true.

I am not ashamed of God. I love an argument (rhetorical debate) and enjoy theological banter and bull sessions. I am currently considering that my experience might be the right one. Jesus said in Matthew 5:5-8

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Secret, pray in secret, pray just between you and God. Jesus often went off alone to pray. It appears that when we need to get serious with God we need to do that privately.

However, public or group prayer can be important. The high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17 was over his disciples, gathered together for the Last Supper. However, it sometimes appears that public prayers are not really for God, but for those hearing it.

Maybe that is the key. When I feel uncomfortable praying in public, it is often because of my concern that my prayer will be adequate to those hearing it, when in essence God is my audience; the rest of the hearers are there to give their “amen” to the petition, nothing more.

We can all agree that public prayers are not for showing off how spiritual you are. But also, our public prayers aren’t supposed to be evangelistic sermons or mini-teachings and especially not prayer-wrapped and therefore “acceptable” rebukes. No. Prayers are for God; he alone is our audience and we need to remember that.

So maybe my prayer concerns are not so odd after all.

Grace and peace to your day.