How to pray aloud like a man

MicrophoneHave you ever noticed that Christians speak normally to one another, but when they speak to aloud to God they lapse into a strange language and tone? I call this “prayer-speak” and it’s epidemic in evangelical churches today.

Prayer speak sounds like this:

Dear God, we need you. God, we just need your love. God, we just need your presence.  Father be with us in this time of worship. Lord, just send your spirit so that every heart is touched. Father, that no one would go home the same.

Lord, I just pray that we would run into your arms and seek safety there. Father nothing compares to your love for us.

Father God, we just pray that we would honor you in all we do. Lord, give us boldness to proclaim your word to every nation. Father make us your witnesses unto the ends of the earth. We just pray that your Word would go out into the world and change lives.

Father we just ask all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Does this sound familiar? You probably heard something like it last Sunday. Prayer-speak is the native language of the modern worship leader.

I don’t really have a problem with what the prayer said. It’s how it was said.

Notice the prayer invoked the name of God twelve times – at the beginning of each sentence. This is just odd. Did Jesus instruct us to repeat God’s name over and over when we pray? When we speak to a flesh-and-blood person do we say their name each time we open our mouths? “Jeremy, I just want to thank you for having lunch with me. Jeremy, what will you be ordering? I’m thinking about the tilapia, Jeremy. Jeremy, I would just ask that you would pass the breadsticks…”

And what’s with the frequent use of the word just? It gives our prayers the sound of a beggar. Would you just give me a crust of bread, God? Lord, I’m just a miserable sinner, just begging you for some little thing. In trying to make our prayers sound humble, we make them wimpy.

We are God’s sons, not his slaves. John Wesley said, “Storm the Throne of Grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.” We should enter his presence with appropriate confidence. The tone of our prayers should reflect our place as God’s beloved children. Jesus was bold and familiar with his Father; we should be too.

Prayer speak silences men who don’t know the lingo. I’ve prayed in many small groups. The guys who pray aloud tend to be fluent in prayer speak. Meanwhile, the newbies and marginal Christians stay silent, simply because their orations don’t sound holy enough. “Hey God, I got a problem. My car won’t start…” sounds short and stumpy compared to, “Father God, we just come into your holy presence Lord, just asking you to bless every heart.”

Let’s reimagine the prayer above:

Lord, in the next hour we’re going to set aside all our worries and burdens and ask you to take care of those. We want to focus on what’s really important, but we’re so easily distracted by things that don’t matter. Forgive us for that.

We’re a needy people. We are nothing without you and your Spirit. We get beat up by life all week long, and we need this time with you. Thanks for loving us.

And we know you have a mission for us. You called us to be your witnesses, but we’re scared. We shouldn’t be – but we are. Next time we have an opportunity to speak up for you, fill us with your power.

We really look forward to this time in your presence. Speak to us now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Feel the difference between the two prayers? They say basically the same things, but the second prayer sounds confident. You feel it in you gut. It’s not repetitive, hesitant or sing-songy. It’s surprising in its candor. It’s not stuffed with the usual churchy phrases.

Guys, we need to start modeling boldness in prayer. The next time you have an opportunity to pray aloud in a group I challenge you to do three things:

  1. Invoke the name of God one time, as you commence.
  2. Don’t use the word “just” as a modifier.
  3. Speak to God as if he’s a real person. Make your prayer as conversational and “normal” as possible.

When our prayers sound like real conversation with a real God, more men will join in.

  • Ryan Booth

    This is a good article, but I think we should be careful about saying “We are God’s sons, not his slaves.” When I read the New Testament, I see Paul, James and John introducing themselves in the first words of their epistles as “slaves.” We know that we shall be raised to judge angels, but our attitude for now should be humble. One of the things that contemporary Christianity has lost is “the fear of the Lord.” We should be in awe of God; He is our Father, not our best buddy, and we shouldn’t speak to Him as though He were. When the prodigal son sees his father, he opens with the fact that he isn’t worthy to be called his son.

    Scripture is replete with examples of men praying with great humility. I think of Abraham asking for the protection of Lot in Sodom, saying to God, “Please don’t be angry with me for asking this.” I think of David lying down on his face in prayer for a week, asking for the life of his first son with Bathsheba.

  • Aled Williams

    While I agree with this article, and yes, I am guilty of repetition and the over use of ‘just’ in my public prayer; my concern is that men (and women) may be silenced from public prayer from the fear (usually an irrational paranoia) of being critiqued in their prayer.

    I experienced this some time ago, when my pastor divulged that a visiting speaker advised him that he should evaluate our prayers as an insight to our spiritual lives, as if it were a spiritual thermometer.

    While I agree with the thought and the reasoning behind this visitors’ words, knowing this almost crippled me for a season, with my prayers becoming (falsely) ‘Super Spiritual’ and unreal. I would have been far better off not knowing. I felt totally constrained, losing sight that my prayer is intended to be vertical, to God, rather than horizontal, to impress the ears of man.

    I should hate to think that when leading worship or praying openly that the congregation would hold up score cards letting me know how I did.

    That said, this is a good and thought provoking article. I enjoyed reading it and I am giving these points my consideration and attention for my personal use only.

    But please, please, please – if you share these thoughts with others, let it be as a discussion, not as an instruction. Let it create consideration, not condemnation. God welcomes all the stumbling, stammering prayers of his people that are uttered from the heart, maybe even more so than the eloquent ‘show prayer’ of those who may feel spiritually superior.

    As a worship leader, this article has caused me to consider ‘Name repetition’ and ‘just’. But even more deeply, to consider my public prayer in the context of whether I am praying from my heart or showing off and therefore spouting hot air!!

    • http://www.churchformen.com/ David Murrow

      Your final sentence is the key – Jesus warned us against “vain repetitions” in our prayers. When I hear a man praying aloud to Jesus as if he’s a real person it’s shocking to my ears. I really sit up and listen to what he has to say. That’s my goal when I pray aloud – to make it real, raw and irreligious.

  • WOB

    I also suggest that whilst we pray, that we do curls with at least 20lb weights. I mean, if we really want to be manly when praying.

  • WOB

    Some needs to tell David to MAN UP! I count at least a dozen times he says Lord, Lord God, or God in this prayer. Imagine eating lunch with him!

    1 Chronicles 17:16-27

    David’s Prayer of Thanksgiving

    16 Then King David went into the Tent of the Lord’s presence, sat down, and prayed, “I am not worthy of what you have already done for me, Lord God, nor is my family. 17 Yet now you are doing even more; you have made promises about my descendants in the years to come, and you, Lord God, are already treating me like someone great.[a] 18 What more can I say to you! You know me well, and yet you honor me, your servant. 19 It was your will and purpose to do this for me and to show me my future greatness. 20 Lord, there is none like you; we have always known that you alone are God. 21 There is no other nation on earth like Israel, whom you rescued from slavery to make them your own people. The great and wonderful things you did for them spread your fame throughout the world. You rescued your people from Egypt and drove out other nations as your people advanced. 22 You have made Israel your own people forever, and you, Lord, have become their God. 23 “And now, O Lord, fulfill for all time the promise you made about me and my descendants, and do what you said you would. 24 Your fame will be great, and people will forever say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel.’ And you will preserve my dynasty for all time. 25 I have the courage to pray this prayer to you, my God, because you have revealed all this to me, your servant, and have told me that you will make my descendants kings. 26 You, Lord, are God, and you have made this wonderful promise to me. 27 I ask you to bless my descendants so that they will continue to enjoy your favor. You, Lord, have blessed them, and your blessing will rest on them forever.”

    • http://www.churchformen.com/ David Murrow

      Well, David was a worship leader LOL! I guess this has been going on a long time…

      • WOB

        I was being more than a little facetious. I do “get” your point, however. I, too, hear people so repetitious in their prayers that it’s painful.

  • Audrey Johnson Shehane

    I’m just not sure what to say about this article. I think the excessive use of God’s names is most likely due to nervousness at being in the spotlight. What does it matter how someone prays? I don’t correct everything my children say when they talk to me…I just love hearing them converse with me. God loves to hear us speak to him. It doesn’t matter to Him whether or not you approve of someone else’s prayers.

    • http://www.churchformen.com/ David Murrow

      It matters because it shuts less verbal people out of praying aloud. If everyone uses a special language with God, those who don’t know the lingo tend to keep their mouths shut. The prayers that inspire men are those that sound like real conversation with a real God.

      • Audrey Johnson Shehane

        You mean that those are the prayers that inspire YOU. So much your writing assumes that your opinions and thoughts are fact and are the general opinion of all men. That just isn’t the case. I think this particular article is more likely to make people afraid to pray in public because they aren’t perfect and can’t keep up with your idea of a proper prayer. Who are you to decide what sounds like real conversation with God? An awkward prayer can still be authentic, sincere, and genuine. God doesn’t mind. Why should you?

        • http://www.churchformen.com/ David Murrow

          I think you’re missing my point. God loves all kinds of prayers – except for proud ones (Luke 18:9-14) and excessively wordy ones (Matt. 6:7). I’m saying that when Christians pray aloud we tend to be wordy and too often we are proud.

  • http://www.JesusStalker.com/ Ruth Zeman

    Yes, thank you. It needed to be said. So people are scared to pray….so? I’m scared of the PTO but it doesn’t stop them from finding me.
    We have been given a gift and we need to be bold about it. This is what I got from your well written article.
    I have a cousin who uses my name like a spacer in conversation. It is the most annoying thing in the world. I discovered that he was actually taught to do that in college learning to be a shrink. In prayers, I think we could stand to use more reverance with Jesus’ Names. They deserve so much more than to be an um.
    Also, I was nodding my head yes when you covered the “justs”. I agree again that we are to be humble but not whiney.
    Thanks you for your bold article. I would love to pray in agreement with you, anytime.
    Way to be a man.

    • http://www.churchformen.com/ David Murrow

      Thank you

  • Jenny Mertes

    True for women too – when I worked for a ministry, we were required to meet in small groups and pray aloud together, and I hate hate hated it. I felt pressure to be as spiritual-sounding in my prayers as the others, and although I’ve been in church and have prayed aloud since childhood, I still prefer not to pray aloud in groups because it’s just so awkward. And I feel judged. I’d sure prefer that we all take on a conversational tone and let the overly religious tone go for good.

  • jkingqm

    Sometimes you have to wonder who “Father Wejust” is. “Father Wejust, we just come before you blah blah blah….Father Wejust, we just ask you to blah blah blah. Father Wejust, blah blah blah.”


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