“I had an interesting experience at church yesterday,” I said to Stan.
“Well,” I replied, “the pastor gave a great message. But it was at the end of the service when the interesting part occurred. One of the elders of the church gave the benediction and it was the longest prayer I have ever heard.”
“How long?” Stan asked.
“Didn’t time it,” I said, “but it was really long. It was like the fellow had the stage and didn’t want to get off.”
“Been there, heard that,” Stan replied.
Continuing, he said, “I have heard many great prayers. Some so great I almost applauded.”
“Well,” I responded, “I can tell you I mentally applauded when the fellow was finally done yesterday, but it was because he was finished.”
“Who do you think he was addressing with his prayer?” Stan asked. “Was it God or was it the congregation?”
“Seems like it was more to the congregation,” I replied.
“I think that’s always a danger,” Stan replied. “At least for me.”
“How so?” I asked.
“If I am not careful when I pray before other people,” Stan responded, “there is a natural tendency to try to impress the people with the eloquence or the sincerity of my words. It can be like I’m praying to them, the people, rather than to the Lord God Almighty. It can be like I’m seeking their approval, rather than coming before God without any regard for anyone else this side of heaven who may be listening.”
“Is there a way to avoid that?” I asked.
“For me,” Stan replied, “whenever I am to pray in front of any other people, I always pray a quick silent prayer to God before I begin to speak.”
“What prayer?” I asked.
“That what I say will be a prayer between me and God, without any regard for anyone else who may hear. That my words are for God alone. Just between Him and me. Not for any audience, except the audience of the One.”
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you allow me to come before you in prayer, both privately and publicly. I ask for your leading in all of my prayers so that I pray only in accordance with your will. I ask that especially whenever I am to pray before others. I ask for your help with those prayers so that I consider you as the only one to whom I am praying, that my focus will be on you alone. Please help me in not trying to impress anyone on this side of eternity with anything I may say in my prayers. I confess that there have been times when the focus of my prayers has not been on you, but on the other people who may hear them. Please forgive me. And please lead me so that all of my prayers will truly be acceptable to you and to you alone. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Praying before others can be difficult. Do you sometimes find yourself thinking more about the people listening, than you do about God listening? What does it look and sound like to pray only for God’s listening ear?
Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: firstname.lastname@example.org.