Learning To Pray

January 8, 2008

September 2007, I was elected 2008 president of our UMW.  I have been nervous about my decision to accept the office ever since.  I’m not afraid of being a leader, I’m not afraid of public speaking, but I am scared to death of performing one of my job duties.  Praying aloud, for God and everybody to hear.

I’ve prayed silently for years.   I don’t do it as often as I should, but I do pray.  However, even in my silent meditation, I feel inadequate.  I feel like I’m rambling, or repeating the same thing over and over.  I feel like I’m a one trick pony.  “God, watch over me, keep me safe and healthy, watch over J, keep him safe and healthy, watch over my boys, keep them safe and healthy………….”.  I feel like God’s up there rolling his eyes and saying, “is that all you got?  Get on with it lady, I’ve got billions of other people to tend to”.  

My oldest has me say his prayers with him every night.  He tells me who to pray for, and I insert their names, one by one into my old, “keep _____ safe and healthy” dialogue.  It’s so boring, that sometimes I even fall asleep while praying aloud. 

My first meeting as president was last night.  I was a wreck yesterday, all day, thinking about it.  We open each meeting with prayer requests, then the president leads the prayer.  Children aside, I haven’t prayed alound in front of another human being in 25 years.  I say 25 years because I distinctly remember reciting, “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.  Amen” at the dinner table as a preschooler.    However, that wasn’t praying from the heart, that was mere recitation, and I knew that memorization and stage fright are not my problem. My problem is crafting the words.  My problem is the filler.  I’m a very effeceint person.  I don’t like filler, and I’m not good at contributing it, in any situation.    

The time came, and I probably drug out the “prayer request” time longer than should be allowed, attempting to prolong the inevitable.  I first warned the group about my plight, then armed with my list of names and maladies, and with sweatty palms, I asked the group to go to God in prayer.    It was time to take my list and mush the names and afflictions into something that would be pleasing to God, and to my fellow group members.

I know that God understands, that he doesn’t care how you say it, so long as you say it, etc, but I CHOKED.  For all the practicing I did, for all the crafting of words I put alot of thought into, I sat there staring at the names on my yellow scratch pad, only able to rattle off names and maladies.  Halfway through the prayer, I realized I was doing the “be with ________, keep them safe and healthy” thing.  Upon realizing this, I could only stop, mid-prayer, and gather my thoughts.  The lady to my left reached over and put her hand on my back, in a sign of support, which made me become more self conscious. 

I finally managed to wrap it up, and with tears in my eyes, pronounced my attempt a “train wreck”.  The group members assured me that it would get easier.  One even told me that if it didn’t, that if I decided I, like alot of other people,  just wasn’t cut out for public prayer, I could appoint someone else to do it.  I toyed with the idea of doing just that, but then I decided that I would give it a few more tries.  I appreciate the offer, and I may take it, but I feel in my heart that this is something that I need to learn how to do. 

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14 Responses to “Learning To Pray”

  1. Wendy Says:

    This post was such a heartfelt admission, I’m sure you come across the same way in person, which makes your reading sincere. How could anyone find fault with that? And I don’t see any problem with repeating the same phrase and inserting a different name each time. Catholic priests have been doing that for eons. But I did laugh at the part where you fall asleep when saying your son’s prayers with him.

  2. Brian Says:

    I don’t think God cares about fancy words at all. A person can use long and hard-to-understand words while praying, but if it isn’t heartfelt and sincere, God isn’t going to listen.

    You keep on praying out loud, girl! They elected you for a reason and that probably has much more to do with how you conduct your life than the way you offer public prayer.

  3. Alyson Says:

    @ Wendy: Thanks so much for the kind words. It’s true, he often wakes me up.

    @ Brian: Thanks! I’m going to keep trying till I’m more comfortable with it. And, acutally they elected me because nobody else would do it. LOL. Gotta love those small chruches.


  4. Alyson,

    It gets more comfortable. Just focus on talking to God like it’s just the two of you. Be encouraged. You know what happens every time you falter when praying out loud in front of a bunch of church ladies? A bunch of church ladies are praying for you at that very moment. (Found you through WordPress Tag Surfer)

  5. Alyson Says:

    Thanks so much for your kind words. You’re right about faltering. I got some encouraging emails the next day from my predecessors.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  6. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog! My name link actually sent you to a “supplemental” blog. I think I fixed that and my name link will take you to my main blog if you want to check it out. (I have no confidence that I fixed this, so just in case, my main blog url is: http://pragmaticcompendium.wordpress.com/)

  7. Alyson Says:

    The link worked. I checked it out yesterday, while browsing around on your other blog. I love it.


  8. Thanks so much for checking! Hey, if you have time, check out Leslie’s poll over at Lux Venit (she’s on my blogroll). The poll is entitled “Are you a strong willed woman?” I’m still working on my answers – it’s a lot of food for thought.

  9. Alyson Says:

    I’ll do that.

  10. Faye Holmes Says:

    I too have problems doing public prayer. I read two chapters of the bible daily and talk (pray) to the good lord on a daily basis, as well as short prayer that I almost don’t notice all day long. Public prayer scares me and I don’t know why…I am afraid I will go blank…

  11. Alyson Says:

    It’s nice to know that I’m not alone. It’s been a few months now, and I’m getting a little better.

  12. Joyce Says:

    It happened to me last night in our group, asked to open in prayer and I froze. How can I overcome this? Been reading up on this and nothing helps, does that make me a bad Christian? Did I let Jesus and myself down?

  13. Alyson Says:

    I don’t think you are a bad Christian or that you let Jesus or yourself down. Everyone has different talents, and if praying aloud is not one of yours, that’s just how God made you. I’m sure you make up for it in some other aspect.

  14. Lori Says:

    I laughed and I cried reading this, because this is my life story, so I can truly relate to what you are saying. Just this past week, I was ask to pray in the absence of a fellow sister, who is a dynamic prayer warrior at church. The thing I feared worst was requested of me and I told her shamefully “No…I can’t, I just can’t. I’m Not good at it! Please select someone else”
    My guilt and conviction felt as if I let God, me and her, down. But as humbly as she ask, was the same meek, sweet spirit that understood and told me not to worry. She was once the same way. I felt better, but I felt like I was given a mission and I let her down. But I came away from that conversation knowing I have to do this. Not just for God, but for me and my ministry God has given me. There are those out there in the future waiting to hear my prayers lift up their spirit.
    Thank you so much for that beautiful testimony Alyson. You have made my day and I must share this story to others who I’m sure, feel the same inadequate way, but will know, it’s ok.


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