About a month ago I read a story about Thomas J. Jackson, otherwise known as "Stonewall Jackson". For those that don't know, Jackson was a man of God. But in this story it described his fear of praying in public. This, coupled with his fear of public speaking caused great anxiety in him. Although fearful, he felt a sense of duty to lead prayer during church services. One day he walked up to his pastor after the church service and said, "If you think it is my duty, call on me whenever you think proper. My personal comfort is not to be consulted in the matter." Weeks later he was called upon by the pastor to lead the church in prayer. It did not go so well. He was tongue-tied, stumbled through the prayer, and 'said a lot of nothing'. Apparently it went so bad that the pastor was not going to ask him to lead the prayer again. Amazingly, Jackson asked his pastor to continue calling on him to lead the prayers. He decided to join the debate team in order to overcome his fear of public speaking. As each prayer went by he got significantly better. So much so that he eventually led the prayer meetings at church.
This story resonated with me a bit...okay a lot. At times, I feel the same anxiety to pray out loud with somebody, let alone lead it. I think I too struggle to come up with the right words to say in the moment. Naturally I say, "I'll keep you in my prayers" rather than pray for or with someone during that moment. Sometimes I feel that I say 'a whole lot of nothing'. But it's important to understand that what you're praying is important to God.
Often I sit and listen to some of the most magnificent prayers and wonder how I can gather my thoughts to pray in a similar manner. Well, the good news is that you don't have to join a debate team to do so! There are many practical books out there that provide simple step by step guides on prayer. I recently started reading a book, Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney. It's great and easy to read. In one simple example he talks about selecting a piece of scripture (usually from the book of Psalms) and praying verse by verse. I won't give away all the techniques, but I'll say that it has really helped my prayer life in just these past couple weeks.
Some of you may already be doing this or have better advice. I highly encourage you to share it with those around you. There's someone out there who needs your encouragement. For me, having The Bible in my hands helps hold my attention. By reading scripture and praying about verses I can focus on biblical truths. If you come across difficulties and don't understand the scriptures, it's okay to make a note and do some research on it for later.
Lastly, as you pray over scripture its natural that your growth as a Christian will develop. I think many would agree when I say that our lack of prayer seems to be the anchor that holds us down in our Christian growth. As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:18 - "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." Prayer is a gift from God and a blessing for Him. That's not something to be afraid of in this life or the next.