My heart pounded because I knew it was my turn to speak. I knew what I wanted to say, but the words were all jumbled in my head and I wasn’t sure how I would articulate them.
I took a breath.
A half second of silence, of anxiety I didn’t need to feel, and I just prayed in my mind for God to give me the words to speak.
This feeling sound familiar? Does anyone else have a fear of praying in public?
When I’m praying in a group I just hope no one will designate me to pray out loud. It’s not that I don’t want to pray, I just need five minutes to write down a nice little speech, edit it, and then practice a few times beforehand. As if, you know, that’s realistic haha.
I’m not always the best at being put on the spot. I’ll be able to pray out loud, but it will be a simple prayer, not full of all the right words and the elegance those more equipped to praying on the spot have acquired.
I suppose I’ll get better at this with practice, but I mean, it’s been my whole life so I guess we’ll see how it goes from here on out.
But the other day, when I was asked to pray out loud in a group setting, something inside me broke. When it was my turn to speak…sheer panic came over me. I don’t know why because I pray all the time. But hardly ever in public. Something about knowing other people are listening to my prayer is a frightening feeling.
But nonetheless, I prayed. Heart was pounding the whole time. And it was a fine and simple prayer.
It doesn’t have to be pretty or put together or anything other than simple because it’s just me and God. But I felt, in that moment, like I had an audience and I needed to sound more put together.
Like a simple prayer would be a depiction of lesser faith. Which isn’t true at all. Rather, it’s that I get almost crippling anxiety being forced to speak on the spot like that. Because to me, it suddenly wasn’t about the prayer itself. It was about praying well. Praying like everyone else was.
I felt like people would think less of me if I didn’t have the right words. I just wanted to say, “My head is spinning and my heart is pounding and my entire body just got hit with a dose of adrenaline because I feel like I’m in survival mode can I pass?” But I’m not sure that would have been a great look, you know? The truth is, I can pray all week, but a minute long prayer in a group setting is just a little beyond me at the moment.
I feel like that thought makes me weak. Like I’m less of a Christian because praying should come easily, right? If I’m really full of faith, why doesn’t God just help me speak and give me the right words? Why doesn’t God take away the crippling anxiety so I can think clearly and focus on the prayer. Why doesn’t God just give me peace?
Why does something so simple, praying out loud with a group of believers, become so complicated?
See what just happened?
Suddenly something that is supposed to be focused on others and God became about me. About my fears and anxieties and how people will perceive me and my faith based on how I’m able to articulate a prayer.
The irony is, no one is thinking about how well I did or didn’t pray. At least they shouldn’t be.
Because it’s not about me.
It’s about God working in our lives to further His Kingdom.
Prayers don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be put together.
You don’t have to be put together.
“Come as you are,” right?
So, I’m not sure what my point is here, but if anyone else struggles with praying in public, or even anxiety in general, I hope you know you’re not alone.
Say your simple prayer. God still hears you. And if the people you are with are truly following Him, they’ll hear you too because it isn’t about the words of your prayer so much as it is about the faith behind the prayer.
It’s a prayer. Not a show.
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Easier said than done, but it’s something I’m continually working on. And maybe, just because praying in public scares me, I’ll force myself to do it more because through that I will grow. Perhaps it will strengthen my faith and help me become better at praying in general.
Anyway, while I love church and the Christ-centered community it can provide, I do have to say, it can be a difficult place for the socially anxious. But you know, that’s something about myself I’d like to overcome and can pray to God about. Just maybe not in public 🙂
Hi! My name is Rachel. I love to write. Write about life, love, and reflect on how the past builds the future. Mostly, I love to tell stories because I believe there is something about stories that brings the world closer together. You can check out some of my writing reflections here at Rachel Writes.