A friend asked for my take on whether we are supposed to pray audibly. It’s an interesting question. I was reared in a home and church where praying out loud was the norm. But many people do not have that experience. They can be intimidated when others are praying aloud and it appears that they are expected to do the same. Fear not! There are many examples of both throughout Scripture.
Old Testament Examples of Prayer
In the Psalms, we often read of people praying and praising the Lord verbally.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I, whom you have redeemed. (Psalms 71:23)
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)
I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. (Psalm 142:1)
Hannah prayed in her heart. Although her lips were moving, the priest could not hear her voice (1 Samuel 1:13).
When Nehemiah learned of the devastation of Jerusalem, his sadness showed on his face as he served before King Artaxerxes. The king questioned him about this and asked what he could do? The next statement in Scripture says just this,
Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the King … (Nehemiah 2)
This was a quick, private “arrow prayer.”
I am particularly encouraged by Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” God knows my thoughts and my words. Before I even form them, He is sending an answer my way.
New Testament Prayers
It’s interesting to consider New Testament prayers. Jesus scolded the hypocrites who loved to pray while standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so others would see them. Jesus encouraged His followers not to be like them, but to go behind closed doors and pray to their Father in secret (Matthew 6:5-7).
Other examples of New Testament prayers:
- Jesus prayed aloud in John 17. It is the prayer He prayed for His disciples and all the saints just prior to His arrest and crucifixion.
- The Book of Acts records many examples of the early church praying together about everything (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:23-31; 12:5; Matthew 18:19).
- The apostle Paul wrote prayers in his letters to the churches (Ephesians 3:14-21; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-14).
Praying aloud in your own private time can be helpful. For me, a very scatterbrained blonde, it helps me stay focused. When I pray alone silently, often my thoughts wander—usually toward my “to-do list”. Also, praying aloud helps me “hear” what I’m praying. Sometimes what I’m praying is not at all what I need to be praying.
My husband reminded me when my grandmother’s husband prayed at our wedding. He was a retired pastor and prayed a beautiful, eloquent prayer on our behalf. It was clear, however, that he was oblivious to those around him. He was in the throne room with his God and Savior. Those of us who listened sensed that. We felt the very presence of God while he prayed.
Sometimes during prayer times with my Bible Study ladies (some praying aloud, some silently), there is the sense that one or more of those precious women is “alone in her prayer closet.” And I can’t count the number of times I’ve been encouraged by a hand-written note with a brief prayer included. I save these and re-read them when I need special encouragement.
The Lord hears every prayer—whether silent or aloud, privately journaled, or written to encourage others. He is omniscient—knowing our every thought. In fact, in His eyes, our thoughts and our voiced words are one and the same. Some situations call for praying out loud; others call for praying silently—secretly even.
Regardless, we can be confident that, as Psalm 139:4 reminds us, “Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.”
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