Prayer is something that Jesus calls us to do daily, and He gave us some of the best examples ever; the Our Father, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Cross, and at the Last Supper. I then wondered what His and most other great prayers had in common. It hit me like a chilled water balloon: all of the strongest prayers are said out loud.
But why would Jesus and a ton of other saints pray out loud?
One thing that Jesus and the saints have in common is that they reveal God to us in new ways, and a lot of the time they reveal God in their prayers to Him. But we wouldn’t know God in that way if they didn’t pray out loud. None of the Gospel writers would have written down the Our Father if they didn’t hear it from Jesus, nor the Agony in the Garden, nor the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the parts of the Mass). Praying out loud was how the Gospel was spread, how evangelization happened, and how people lived out their faith.
That was back then, but this is now. Christians, and maybe Catholics even more so, aren’t praying out loud.
We’re afraid to show our religious life to our public version of ourselves: whether that be on social media, at work, at school, or wherever we are. We are afraid to show the world who we really are on the inside; a sinner who is saved by Christ.
I’m not saying that this fear is irrational in a social standpoint. There are people in your lives – close friends, and possibly even family – who resent and hate you because you are religious. They will persecute you, and it will feel terrible, but there is something that I want to share with you that should bring you hope: persecution and hate and exile are all a part of what it means to be Christian. We were not the first to feel this way, and we certainly won’t be the last.
The Early Christians
Whenever I feel like I don’t want to show my faith because of the repercussions and persecution I might get, I think back to the first Christians.
Early Christians were literally hunted by the Romans. If they proclaimed Jesus was risen, they would be killed. If you were even thought to be a Christian, they would put you in prison. Christians who proclaimed the Word of God had their teeth ripped out of their mouths to shut them up. And yet they still did it – not because they wanted to, but because they had to proclaim the truth, they had to pray so that you and I would know and believe that same truth today.
The first martyrs are so inspiring, because if they didn’t die for the faith, the faith would’ve died instead. Because of their sacrifice, we should make a point to pray out loud, to give a voice to the truth that people are craving to hear. But what if you’ve never prayed out loud before?
Here are some tips:
1. Take every opportunity.
This is my best and greatest advice. I had no idea how to pray out loud, let alone how to lead people in prayer, but I made a promise to myself: every time someone asks, “Who would like to lead us in prayer?” I had to volunteer immediately. No hesitations, (in the amazing words of Shia Lebeouf) – just do it! It takes courage and is hard at first, but it makes it so easy after a while because you get so much practice. It helped so much, and I really hope that if you take any one tip away from this blog; it’s this one.
2. Have a plan.
You don’t want to go into prayer entirely unprepared, because then you freeze up a little and you’re lost. Have an outline of what to do. Mine goes something like this:
- Open prayer by calling upon the Holy Spirit to guide that prayer. As simple as “Come Holy Spirit.”
- Give God thanksgiving for anything and everything.
- Pray for the reason that brought you to prayer; the intention that you are leading. Let the Holy Spirit guide you through all of it.
- Ask Mary to intercede and deliver that prayer directly to Jesus.
- Ask the Saints for their intercession. I don’t always remember to do this, but it really helps.
These are the prayers that Jesus prayed. I think we should pray them too. At UMD, we have Holy Spirit Nights where we have Adoration in tandem with praise and worship. During the lulls in the music, we have been encouraging people to pray Psalms out loud, and it adds something incredible to the worship.
Some of the most simple and heartfelt prayers are by the people who were there and watched Jesus perform miracles. Read some of the statements and exclamations of the early Christians and make their direct words to Jesus your own.
5. Ask a priest.
If you don’t know how to pray out loud, ask a priest to help you because, well… it’s their job!
St. Augustine is quoted or misquoted (depending on who you ask) with originating the saying, “to sing is to pray twice.” I believe that this absolutely rings true. God didn’t give us monotonous voices, so I say we use that gift!
Praying out loud is a dying art, but I think that we can bring it back, and hopefully these tips help! Make yourself a promise: take every opportunity to pray out loud! We need people to stand up and lead others to grace, and the best practical way to do that is through prayer.
Pray loud and pray often,