[Disclaimer: “do hard things” is not my own phrase but the title of the book Do Hard Things, but I like the authors’ stance of opposing complacency and mediocrity.]

As a Christian, I often struggle to pray aloud, even when gathered with other Christians over a meal.

Somehow, it’s awkward.

Awkwardness & Drifting

Usually, we wait for everyone to have gotten food or given consent to go ahead, then one or more of these things happen (in order of rarest to most common):

  1. Someone says, “Let’s pray.”
  2. I make a cue for prayer, i.e., putting my hands together in the classical clasping motion.
  3. We play some sort of dumb game like “nose goes” [1]or some other sort of evangelical-subcultural practice, this along with a lot of nervous laughter, eyes that avoid contact and empty cliches that people don’t really mean, like “It’s a privilege, guys…”
  4. We single out some person for an arbitrary, childish reason (I myself have been singled out before for the simple reason of looking ready to pray).
  5. Oftentimes we also use it as a sort of playful punishment., e.g., “You’re late: pray for us.” — that is terribly wrong, but this is not the place to write about it.

[Hint: Comment on the last one and get me riled enough, and that will speed the forthcoming of a post addressing that.]

Speaking of awkwardness, though, let me not even talk in this post about praying silently when non-Christians are at the table (maybe another post later). During the prayer, that is the ultimate in “t3h awkw4rd.” [2]

The Benefits of Praying Aloud

In praying, one of the most important things that we as Christians can (and need to) do, from which we will benefit, is praying aloud. I’m vulnerable to losing focus in my silent prayers: I drift in my thoughts or lose my train of thought. Praying aloud fixes that.

Praying aloud has more benefits:

  1. Everyone is on the same page.
  2. Prayer that is prayed aloud sticks in your mind more than a quick, silent prayer. A silent prayer is often little more than an inconsequential bowing of your head and homage to a meaningless ritual. A prayer prayed aloud makes you think about it afterward: it makes you want to pray more often. That in itself is hard — another can of worms — and involves more than remembering to bow your head often: it’s part of a way of living — that is, “dwelling in the house of the Lord.”
  3. Everyone knows when the prayer time has ended. No “gopher-praying”— that is, people finishing, looking up, finding others with their heads still down, then going back down to pray some more. When gopher-praying happens, somehow, after a while, some sort of magical switch is flipped and everyone comes up at around the same time. In the meantime? Awkward!

Do Hard Things

Praying aloud has the benefit of focusing you upon the words of the prayer and upon the one to whom you’re praying; it forces you to do a hard thing. Come to the Lord in prayer, bringing your brothers and sisters to be blessed as well.

[1] Which I still don’t get or know how to play. I’m not sure I want to learn, either.
[2] For all you nitpickers, I left the first “a” in “awkward” as an “a” on purpose to help non-leet speakers not have to stare in ignorance for a while.