These statements were part of a conversation I had recently:
“I could never do that in public.”
“That’s such a private act!”
“There are children around, what if they see and don’t understand?”
“Maybe keep that just in the home. Or maybe in church.”
“I’m fine if other people do it in public, but it does kind of make me feel weird.”
So, what am I talking about here… If you guessed breastfeeding in public, you would be… WRONG! (You can read some thoughts on breastfeeding in public here.) Actually, we were talking about PRAYER in public.
I don’t know why people get so weirded out about praying out loud in public. Maybe it’s the thought that faith is such a personal thing. Maybe it’s the fear of imposing one’s faith on another, one who may or may not want to be exposed to faith-matters. It could be said that the Bible even makes a case for keeping prayers between you and your Father:
Matthew 6:5-6 (New International Version)
5 “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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 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.
But, to me, there is a difference in praying as we are called to pray and praying as the “hypocrites” pray. One major consideration is, to whom or for whom are you praying? Are you praying to impress those around you, or are you praying because you are moved to do so by the Spirit? At a restaurant, do you say a blessing before meals because you are truly thankful for the hands and the earth from which the food was received (and maybe for the prosperity to enjoy a meal out) or do you say a blessing to show others how much “better” you are than they?
My best friend was married this past weekend. She held her ceremony at Belmont Mansion in Nashville TN. As we (the bride and bridesmaids) were all in the balcony, listening to the pre-ceremony music, I felt this unmistakable urge to pray with them. We were all of different faith backgrounds (Catholic, Lutheran) but I really felt the Spirit telling me to do this. So, right before the first bridesmaid was to make her way down the Grand Staircase, I called all of us together and lead an impromptu prayer. It was short, sweet and really out of character for me but in that moment, I knew that it was not my words but His:
Matthew 10:19-20 (New King James Version)
19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
I don’t know about the other ladies, but I was sure filled with peace and grace for the rest of the ceremony! So, what’s my point? If the Spirit moves you, pray! Pray out loud, pray to yourself, either way, God hears those prayers.
I was recently asked to join my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group as their Prayers and Shares leader. Now, if you hadn’t guessed, I do enjoy public speaking and l love to have responsibilities but I will tell you, I feel so UNDERQUALIFIED to be a Prayers and Shares leader. Why? For one thing, my MOPS group is made up of women from differing faith traditions and in my mind, there are so many other women in our group that would so better fit that role. Women who know their Bibles and Bible verses inside and out (I have, like, six verses memorized and that’s mostly because of Christian music!) Women who can pray these amazing prayers of thanksgiving, of praise, of petition… all extemporaneously! Women who are so tightly bonded to Christ that I feel like I am missing something. And I’ll admit, I feel a little… ill-equipped. But you want to know what I read recently?
God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
And seriously, who am I to say “I think you picked the wrong gal” to my Father? So, to sum it up: I’m going to pull on the Big Girl Panties and Just Do It (with apologies to Nike!)