Do you feel uncomfortable praying out loud? In front of people? I know many people who do. Fear of public speaking is one thing, but when the public speaking is a prayer, isn’t that even harder? Some people will do all that they can to avoid it, but when you have been asked directly to do so, it seems a little awkward, and unspiritual, to say no. Once you start praying, feeling self-conscious will only make it harder to find the right words, thus making you feel more inadequate. It’s a vicious cycle.
The truth is, we often have similar problems even when we are praying quietly by ourselves. We know that we should pray, but we’re not quite sure just how, nor about what specifically. We still have trouble finding the words. If we have just been diagnosed with a serious illness, or we are having financial or relationship difficulties, or if any of those things are happening to a loved one, what do we ask God for? Do we ask for healing or resolutions? Do we ask that we would become more like Christ through the trial? Do we ask that God’s will would be done? As humans, we don’t get to see the big picture. We don’t know all the details of what God’s plan entails. We don’t know the end from the beginning. We don’t always know what’s best for us. We only know that we want help right now.
The good news is that God understands how we feel. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He has promised us that when we don’t know what to say, what to ask for, the Holy Spirit is here to help. Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Spirit not only steps in to help us communicate with God in a way that is beyond our understanding, but also that it is always in accordance with God’s will. Since the Spirit and the Father are one, the Spirit always knows the right thing to ask for.
But we don’t get off the hook completely. Verse 26 says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. It doesn’t say that the Spirit sees that we can’t do it, or don’t want to do it, so He steps up and takes over. No, the word translated as helps is used only in one other place in the New Testament, and that is in Luke 10:40 when Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Martha wasn’t planning to quit and make Mary take over the meal preparation; she just wanted a little assistance. The Holy Spirit is not going to do our praying for us either. We need to start. We need to try. We need to express our prayerful thoughts the best way we know how. But, whether we are praying alone or in front of others, we can ask the Spirit to help us, and He will.