They’ve just finished the weekly connect group or maybe the monthly prayer meeting… the end draws nigh, only one obstacle remains to be faced.
The moment when the leader surveys the room and selects the ‘chosen one’ to pray for us and close the meeting. We’ve all been there…
Your leader peers around the room and sees that almost everyone is already saying a small prayer, “Please God, don’t let him pick me.” You were happy to be there, but somehow you know that your brain and tongue will utterly disconnect the moment your name is spoken. At that moment you must carry the momentum of the meeting, at that moment you must send us all out into the night filled and renewed, at that moment you must carry the final word and all eyes are on you.
Too short and you look desperate to move on to coffee and cake. Too long and everyone else who is desperate for coffee and cake will resent your every word. Should nerves rob you of the ability to end the rambling prayer you begin to preach!
Obviously, you will encourage everyone by praying out loud, but right at that moment your only concern is your heart beat behind your eyes. Here are few tips that can help you evade those selective, roaming, leaders eyes.
Slowly lower your head. Look lost in wonder with raised arms. He won’t want to disturb you.
Quickly raise your head. Look eager to pray, but make sure you have slightly wild eyes. He dare not ask you.
Look prayerful, but terrified. Make a face that let’s him know absolutely nothing is going on in your head except fear. It may help to have already prayed for a sick puppy earlier on when everyone else was deeply interceding.
Start crying with audible sobs (avoid snot and dribbling or you’ll extend the time into personal ministry).
Hide your face. Any child will tell you, ‘if you can’t see them they can’t see you.
Here’s a big one! open your Bible and make sure everyone sees you turn the pages. Then, close your Bible, grimace and shake your head. Clearly, you’ve got nothing, but you are godly.
In the highly unlikely event that these strategies fail here is some advice on closing prayer technique.
Repeat verbatim a list of the prayer requests and subjects. All you need to do is pause after every second subject and make a deep and slightly extended mmmmmmm sound. Begin the next subject simply by saying ‘Yes Lord’ at the start of your sentence.
Catch everybody out, turn the tablets and ask each person to name a subject or request then simply say amen at the end. They may resent you when they thought they had avoided the final prayer, but they’ll admire you too (if only they had thought of that).
Say “God” or ‘Father” before and after every single breath. Sometimes followed by mmmmmmm. This makes absolutely no sense in normal conversation, but randomly works in perfectly in public prayer. (Try this out. begin a conversation with someone today and aim to fit their name into each sentence no less than 3 times. See how long it takes them to recognise you as a charismatic christian).
Start crying. They’ll ask someone else and make you a coffee. (Its never to late to duck).
Open with a relaxed tone, “Hey Father.” Everyone will cringe at it, but they’ll all be thinking, “hey. He’s actually speaking to someone he really knows.” (obviously you should know God at this point, but you know what I mean. Somehow being shallow looks deep).
Recite a worship song slowly with pauses in each sentence and mmmmmm after each sentence.
“All heaven………….. declares……. the GLORY….. of the risen Lord mmmmmmmm” (you get the idea)
You will notice my abundant use of mmmmmmm. Naturally, or supernaturally I think this is a little like the Spirit interceding for us with deep groans.
Alternatively, perhaps we could just relax and realise that to talk with our Father God and our Saviour Jesus in the context of the family of Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit, should be the most natural and connected thing we can do together. Yes, your stumbling nervous prayer may sound funny to you, but to us listening it is an encouragement. Your prayer shared, your conversation with Father, Son and Spirit is always a beautiful thing not to be avoided, but celebrated.