I’ve heard many debates about what prayer should be like; silent and personal or spoken out loud, short and to the point or long and elegant. I know there are some people who consider prayer to be a very personal thing that’s just between them and God, and there’s definitely biblical truth to that.
“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 6:6
I think sometimes we take this a little to the extreme though. There are definitely times when this is appropriate, but I’ve recently learned that there are also times when voicing our prayers out loud is just as necessary.
On my trip to Haiti, our team definitely had an agenda and things we needed to accomplish each day, but we were so fortunate to be guided by someone who knew the value of being on Haitian time. During each of our visits to the villages, we had extra time built in to the schedule for some, if not all, of us to visit people. Even though it was nice to get to know people and hear their stories, our main goal was to be able to pray for each of the people that we met.
These prayers weren’t just so that we could ask God for the same things that they had likely been asking God for themselves. To me, the importance of praying with these people was to show them that we cared – to show them God’s love by extending our love to them – and there’s no way that could have been accomplished if we had all just bowed our heads and prayed in silence.
Have you ever been in a group of people as they lay their hands on someone to pray for them? Or maybe you’ve even been the one in the middle of the group being prayed for. I’ve been on both sides of those prayers and I always feel the Holy Spirit the strongest when a group of believers gathers in prayer like that. I hope that’s what we were able to do as we prayed with the people of Haiti. I hope that through our love, compassion, and prayers that they were able to feel the Holy Spirit move within them so that they knew without a doubt that God was hearing our prayers for them.
It was a beautiful thing to watch people step out of their comfort zones to lay their hands on complete strangers to pray for them. Maybe it was a gift from God that they were able to do this with people who couldn’t understand what they were saying because it took some of the pressure off. Sometimes I think we feel like our prayers have to be eloquent and well-spoken in order for them to be heard or answered, but that’s simply not the case. Just like the people we prayed for in Haiti couldn’t understand the words we spoke, but they heard the love behind our words; God doesn’t care how well our prayers are spoken because He can hear the desires of our hearts.
While I’d never say that we should be like the Pharisees “for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5), I do think that sometimes we need to break out of our comfort zones of silent, personal prayer so that through our prayers we can show God’s love. It’s one thing to tell someone you’ll pray for them, but it’s quite another if they witness you actually doing it.