Praying Publicly

By: Alan Harvey

Posted: June 30, 2014

Category: Daily Devotional

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you they have received their reward.” Matthew 6:5ab (NRSV)

As a worship leader and as one who regularly offers the Prayers of the People, I must confess that these words of Jesus are prickly to me. I don’t offer prayers in a synagogue and you will not find me praying on a street corner, at least not so that people can hear me. I do often lead public prayer at church and occasionally in other settings. I never feel that I am praying just to be saying words so that others can hear me.

When I paint pictures with words in a public prayer expressing the beauty of God’s creation, they are not different from the thoughts or words that would find their way into my private prayers. I am awestruck by God’s grace when I see a rainbow after a storm, when I watch butterflies fluttering from flower to flower, and whenever I lift up my eyes to gaze on mountain grandeur.

Whenever I pray for “the sick” somehow that description seems to be lacking because it does not include those who may be anxious about their health or those recovering from surgery or injuries, or those who are undergoing tests, therapies or treatments. Often I am complimented for the inclusiveness of my Pastoral Prayer and I believe that is because people have recognized their particular situation being lifted up to God in prayer. Of course, God knows all the situations that could be included in “the sick.”

Granted I do find great joy in leading worship and I consider it a great honor to voice prayers on behalf of the congregation. Whenever I do lead public prayer, I most certainly will include a section of thanksgiving, which may also be joined to a section of adoration. By the time we have come to the Prayers of the People whether at The Gathering or the later worship service, we have already offered our prayers of confession. Before making further petitions and intercessions, it seems most appropriate to offer our prayers of praise and gratitude to God. That is why I structure my prayers that way. While I may always be seen while leading public prayer, I humbly ask that I may never pray solely to be seen or to receive praise for the prayers I offer.


Heavenly Father, keep us aware of the importance secrecy plays in living as faithful disciples. Remind us that we are not to give for recognition and anonymous gifts bring special rewards. Even when we pray publicly, help us always to pray as if our conversation is private, with no one hearing us, but you. These things we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.