I prayed in church this past Sunday... aloud and in front of people. This was only the second time in my life I have ever done this. Before that I had only prayed aloud with my mother at bedtime as a child and at meals with my children. These are very simple prayers like: "Dear Jesus, Thank you for the pizza, and for the pepperoni on the pizza, and for the salad, and the ranch dressing. Thank you for loving us. We love you. Amen." I'm not knocking these prayers, they are perfect for the occasion and the audience, but not quite inspiring for a room full of adult worshipers who aren't about to eat pizza.
The first time I prayed for our church service was fine for everyone listening, but quite embarrassing for me (a continuing metaphor for my life). I was supposed to pray about God's mercy and I decided to wing-it, because I wanted to sound genuine and sincere. Well, I accomplished that goal just fine. After about the second line I started crying. My throat closed up and I had to stop to avoid sobbing. I tried to pull myself together, but it just wasn't working. The dead air I had already created was getting more and more painful. Running away, unfortunately, was not an option. I'm not sure what I said in closing, but I do know that I used so much energy and oxygen that I needed to take a deep breath. However, my esophagus was so constricted from crying-but-trying-not-to-cry that I sounded like a dying cow taking her last gasps. As if that wasn't bad enough, I could hear my low wheezing moan-like intake amplified and reverberating through the sound system.
Needless to say, as I prepared for my second public prayer, I found little comfort in having a little "experience" under my belt. This time, I was definitely NOT going to wing-it, in fact, I was going to write out my prayer in its entirety and read it verbatim. I wanted to be able to go up there and pray from my heart as God led me, but I had to face the facts. Even though the subject of my prayer this time was "missions", so I was in no great danger of another public breakdown, it is also true that I can barely have a conversation with myself without forgetting what I am talking about. It was time to put all utopian prayer ideals aside and go forward fully prepared.
Even with my written-out prayer, I was still quite nervous as I stepped in front of the microphone. Usually, I don't have a problem with these sort of situations. Karaoke? I'll belt out "Delta Dawn" with the worst of them. But there is something about praying in Church that strikes fear in my heart. All those people are waiting to be led and inspired by YOUR words. I find it a little nerve-racking. But, as usual, all my worrying was for not. There were a few glitches. For instance, my mouth rebelled from my brain and I stuttered the line "f-f-f-forgive me," but all-in-all, I felt it went very well.
If you were not able to make the live nervous version of my "Prayer for Missions" here it is, almost exactly as I spoke it. You can add your own stutters, if you want.