Stop Praying In Church

Aloud, that is. That’s my contribution to the Pomomusings series, “(Re)Imaging Chrisitianity:

This post is part of an ongoing blog series on Pomomusings entitled “(Re)Imagining Christianity.”

What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that must die so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?

What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that we must hold onto and live out more fully so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?

I’m going to keep this brief: I think that we should stop having spoken prayers in worship services.

Read the rest of my post here: Tony Jones on (Re)Imagining Christianity – Pomomusings.

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  • Thank you!

    I used to think about this a lot, and I’m pretty sure I wrote some stuff about it a long time ago – when I still called myself a Christian. But, this is such a central tradition that I grew impatient with this and a long list of other things that I began questioning. Eventually, I gave up, quit working for a church, and “left the faith” (for the most part).

    Good luck!

  • Jeremy

    Sorry, but as keen as you are to chop off the whole limb, the solution looks more like careful pruning. Put the chainsaw away. The answer isn’t “should stop having spoken prayers in worship services” but, “start being more thoughtful about how you facilitate prayers in worship.”

    Just because many (or all) of the liturgical elements in a service are typically, and often, done poorly, isn’t an excuse to quit them altogether.

    Include silence. Write something thoughtful with economy of language, clarity and depth. Purchase good collections of prayers and them for your space and time and place. Read the paper on Sunday morning. Listen to people. Rely on the talented introverts in your midst who can write great prose, but would never get in front of a congregation. If a show-boat shows off, then sort that out over coffee after the service. After some gentle pastoral instruction, invite the show-boat to pray again on another Sunday. Foster a thoughtful and humble “work of the people” in the service.

    The thing is, what I’m describing takes a lot of work. It takes talent and humility and care. It means mistakes and missteps and risks. It’s all worth it.

  • Jeremy

    Sorry, the missing word is “adapt” as in “…and adapt them for your space and time…”

  • At first I thought you were advocating only silent prayer, which I found shocking (eg Matthew 12:34, Romans 10:10) … but you’re just talking about windy hypocrisy, and who would disagree except the windy? I think sermonizing in the form of a prayer can be as good or as bad as any other form, speaking here from the pews.

  • Mary

    In services, I sometimes count the times JESUS, GOD, or LORD are spoken in the SAME prayer. Top count in a recent 2 minute prayer: 14 times. If you are going to call on the Creator in front of the congregation at least have something to say.
    Or you could pray like Will Ferrell would have if they prayed in the movie “Elf”: “I’m in a church and I’m praying! I’m in a church and I’m praying!!”

    • ME

      Unfortunately, all too often I see more resemblance to the Will Ferrell prayer in Talladega Nights.

  • ME

    I second Rob — THANK YOU, and please make this happen. Drives me nuts.

    The passage you pointed out gets violated all the time. It’s seemingly so obvious, then again, in my church, the whole thing about “beware of those in long flowing robes” is ignored too.

  • Curtis

    Some of the most inspirational worship I have ever participated in is when I have visited a traditional Quaker Meeting for Worship. As you know, that is a meeting consisting almost entirely of silence. The silence is broken only by occasional statements of inspiration that anyone is equally invited to give as they are led by the Spirit. Very inspirational and a nice break from our modern lifestyle where we are bombarded by media constantly our every waking hour.

    But, as great as that is, it is not the same thing as a formal liturgy of worship historically practiced in many Christian churches.

    Individual, spontaneous prayer to God and formal prayer embedded into a liturgy are really two completely different things. I really don’t even know why we call both of them “prayer” because they are totally different things.

    Nothing can replace the deep, personal connection with God that I experience with spontaneous, individual prayer. At the same time, nothing can replace the sense of connection, community and belonging to the entire, timeless body of Christ that I experience with a formal liturgy.

    I don’t see why we would want to get rid of either one; they both serve an essential but different role. Maybe we should just give them different names, so we are not confusing “prayer” with “prayer”?

  • JT

    I simply cannot pray aloud. From the moment someone says, “JT, will you lead us in prayer?” my immediate thought is “what is this going to sound like to everyone else?” And the result in my mind is something akin to a dial tone. Um, and uh, um, thank you, um, uh…” Those who are good at making it sound good to everyone else, are very good at it, and they’re called on over and over.

    But that’s not the point, is it? And that’s what bothers me about it. The overall result is that attention is drawn to the person praying – NOT to God. (I’d add “raised hands” to that description as well)

    Thank you, Tony, for reassuring me I’m not the only one out there who thinks we ought to eliminate spoken prayer in church. Why is it we hate silence in church? (same goes for having a moment after a powerful musical offering – how many times have you heard the music ministry render an offering that provokes the spirit, and you just want to sit and worship quietly when it ends, but then, either somebody thinks there ought to be applause here, or the young adult minister takes the stand, interrupting the worship experience by exclaiming “Let’s Go to the Lord in Prayer”? Um – we were trying to when you broke the silence?)