Public Prayer: How to Pray Out Loud

by Emily Vanden Heuvel

If you are reading this blog, it’s safe to assume that you know how important prayer is and find joy in it. Perhaps you’ve committed to praying for family, ministries, leaders, and neighbors. If your intercessory prayer time is anything like mine, you pray in a quiet, private place.

But what about praying out loud at a family gathering, Bible study, informal church meeting, or other such group setting? Here are some tips to help you for when you pray out loud with others:

Speak loudly and clearly

Prayer can be deeply personal. It may feel more reverent to pray with your head bowed while speaking in a soft whisper. But lifting your head up and speaking in a louder voice will make sure that everyone can hear you, so they may pray along with you. Remember that God loves to hear your voice (“Shout for joy to the Lord,” Psalm 100), even if you have to shout.

Write out prayer topics and requests in advance

More often than not, we’re invited to pray aloud spontaneously, but on some occasions the invitation to pray may come before the event. You might find it helpful to write down important topics for prayer, so you don’t forget them. Jotting down specific requests before praying and glancing at them while you pray will keep your prayer focused and help you avoid tangents.

Begin by addressing God the Father

The prayer that Jesus taught us begins with the salutation, “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9). When you’re leading a group in prayer, begin by orienting everyone toward God, stepping into a posture of humility, faith, and adoration before saying or asking for anything more. Some ideas for ways to address God as you begin your prayer are God, Father God, Heavenly Father, Creator God, Perfect Parent, Loving Savior, and Gentle Shepherd.

End in the name of Jesus Christ

Conclude your prayer with something like: “In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.” This reminds us that when Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, he made it so that we can pray with confidence, knowing that God is with us and listens (Hebrews 10:19-21). We pray in Jesus’ name to show our submission and dependence on him, and to invoke his authority for whatever we are praying. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). You can read more here: Does God really listen to me?

Praying out loud is not a performance

Be at ease; prayer is not a performance. When leading a group in prayer, we don’t need to use complicated Christian jargon, share impressive theological concepts, or go on and on for a very long time. None of these will make God pay any more attention to our prayer than he has already promised to do for a short, simple prayer. While it’s not necessarily wrong to use Christian jargon and fancy theological terms in prayer, the people praying with you may find it distracting. Besides, we’re not praying to impress people; and we don’t need to impress God.

While we are not performing, we do need to have our listeners in mind. By avoiding repeated phrases or filler words (“um” or “just”), we help others pray along with us without distraction.

Use a prayer pattern

The acronym ACTS can be very helpful as you craft your spoken prayer:

Adoration (praise and worship): Creator God, we praise you for a new day, and we praise you for showing us your beauty and power in nature.
Confession: We confess when we are selfish, rude, and too busy to acknowledge your work in our lives. Help us forgive each other as you have forgiven us.
Thanksgiving: Thank you, God, for this group. Thank you that we can gather together. Thank you for each person here and how we learn more about your love as we spend time together.
Supplication (asking God for what we need): God, we ask that you bless our time together, we ask that you help us understand as we study your Word. Lead and guide our ministry. We ask that you care for our loved ones in a special way.

Praying is a privilege

I hope these suggestions are helpful and that you will be encouraged the next time you pray out loud before a gathering. Praying on behalf of a group is an honor and a privilege, and God loves to hear his people pray. Remember this wonderful promise from Jesus: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:19-20). May you feel confident as you lead in prayer and know that God is listening.