How to Pray — Part 4
Pray with others
Doug Britton, MFT
Some people have trouble with the idea of praying with others because they think Jesus said we should only pray privately. Here’s the passage they usually quote:
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)
It may look like Jesus was saying the only time we can pray is when we are alone in a room, but that wasn’t his point. His point was that some people pray in front of other people to show off, trying to sound super-spiritual. He was criticizing their self-righteousness.
Read the first five verses of Matthew 6 to better understand what Jesus was getting at. You can see he was saying to pray sincerely, not to show off.
One reason we can be sure it’s okay to pray publicly (with the right attitude) is that Jesus himself prayed publicly. For example, he prayed over the food when he was in the middle of a crowd.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. (Matthew 15:36)
He also gave thanks for the bread and cup during the Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:22-24) and said a long public prayer that takes up all of Chapter 17 in the gospel of John.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples followed his example and prayed publicly. For example, we read that:
- Jesus’ followers joined together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14).
- Jesus’ followers prayed out loud as a group, glorifying God and asking for boldness and miracles (Acts 4:29-30).
- Stephen prayed out loud for his murderers as they were killing him (Acts 7:59-60).
- After Paul said a final goodbye to the believers in Ephesus, he knelt down and prayed with them (Acts 20:36).
Make it personal
1. Read Matthew 6:5-6. What do you think Jesus was getting at?
2. What did Jesus mean by saying the hypocrites “received their reward in full”?
Watch your attitude when you pray publicly
It’s easy for us to criticize the hypocrites Jesus was correcting, but if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes many of us have tried to impress others with the way we pray. It’s easy to slip into this trap—even for pastors.
Make it personal
3. Have you ever caught yourself trying to impress people by the way you prayed? If so, what was one time?
4. How can you avoid slipping into praying this way?
Make praying with others part of your daily life
There are many times in life when it is good to pray with others. Of course, you don’t want to be pushy, but you might be surprised at how often people appreciate it if you ask if they would like to pray with you. For example:
Pray about decisions.
When you talk with a fellow believer about plans to help with a ministry, whether or not to start a business, whom to invite to a party, or any other decision, take a moment to ask God’s guidance.
Pray about problems.
If you and someone else are having difficulties, it may be a good idea to suggest praying about the situation. Be sensitive in your timing. If the other person is screaming and you suggest praying, you risk seeming “holier than thou,” and the screaming may get louder.
Pray with a prayer partner.
Invite someone to pray with you regularly. When you pray, ask God to help each other grow closer to Jesus and to help each of you in your daily lives.
Along the same lines, if you and a friend are both struggling with temptation, anger, depression, or other issues, you could get together once a week to pray for each other.
If you are a parent and both you and one of your children has an anger problem, you could ask your child if he or she would like to pray together. Your child could pray for you, and you could pray for him or her. This could become a daily routine.
When you and a friend are talking and either of you says something about how God helped you, take a moment to thank God.
Pray together after spending time with a friend.
If you and a friend spend time together, take a minute to pray for one another at the end of your time together.
Pray with your spouse.
If you are married, ask your spouse if he or she would like to pray together every day. You could pray at any time that is convenient for both of you.
Make it personal
5. How could you put some of these ideas into practice?
6. Take a minute to ask someone in your group if he or she would like you to pray for anything. Also share your own prayer request(s) with that person.
You can do it
Some people feel awkward or embarrassed about praying out loud when others are present. For many, the idea is terrifying. They fear they will sound stupid. They have heard others pray eloquent, seemingly powerful prayers, and they do not think their prayers could measure up.
If you think your prayers sound dumb, remember that prayer simply is talking with God. It doesn’t matter how many fancy words you use. What matters is how sincere you are. Remind yourself that God is right there with you, and that he loves you.
Ask God to help you overcome your fear and embarrassment. Also ask him to give you a sense of joy that you are praying with others.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
Make it personal
7. Do you feel uncomfortable praying out loud with others? If so, why?
8. How can you become more comfortable praying with others?
If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:19-20)
Make it personal
1. What did Jesus mean when he said to go into your room and close the door when you pray (Matthew 6:5-6)?
2. Describe a time Jesus or one of his followers prayed publicly.
What can you learn from this?
3. Have you ever tried to impress others by praying loudly, eloquently, or fervently?
If so describe one time you did this.
What can you learn from this experience?
4. Describe how comfortable or uncomfortable you are about praying publicly.
If you have been uncomfortable, what points in this study will help you overcome this?
5. Review the ideas in this study for ways you could make praying for others part of your personal life.
What is one idea that you will put into practice this week?
Who will you do this with?
When will you do it?
After you do it, write what you did and how it worked.
6. When you pray with others, do you do most of the praying, very little praying, or about the same as everyone else?
Should you pray less, pray more, or pray about the same amount as you currently do?
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About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.