Have Christian men become afraid to pray? Has it been deemed merely a pastoral responsibility? During a recent mission trip, I was astonished by the refusal of adult men to pray over the locals we were ministering to, and even over meals. When translators asked for volunteers to pray with the families we met, the great majority of men never stepped up. Even when asked directly - “Would one of the men like to pray this time?” – the response was a shuffle of feet and blank stares. Christian men, who had led youth to a third world country as their chaperone or father, were quick to paint houses but hesitant to speak with our God. This is both tragic and terrifying.
I see godly men around me, and abroad, who are eager to communicate with our heavenly Father. They are not ashamed to lift up praises and requests. In the preschool where I work, even the 2 year old children became enthusiastic volunteers to pray before snack and lunch. So sweet! However, the trend I saw on that mission trip spurred me on to reflection. This past year I have witnessed women gathering together to pray intentionally over children, missionaries, and churches. I have not seen this same dependence on God from men. My viewpoint is limited, of course, and prayer is not meant to be a public spectacle. I am also not speaking from any level of superiority or expertise (quite the opposite). Still, I would like to encourage my brothers in Christ because I do not think these are merely isolated events. May we cling to the truth of these reminders, and respond in boldness.
Our God is Personal
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
God is not an impersonal force who is indifferent to our thoughts, concerns, joys and desires. For those who surrender their lives in faith to Christ, God is a heavenly Father. Prayer with him is a privilege; the God of the universe wants to hear from us as his children! He is all-knowing, and yet he wants us to be joined with him in this intimate way. For our relationship with God to be nurtured, communication is key – we see this in our earthly relationships as well. If you’re afraid to be open with God, you’re turning aside from the most powerful and unique relationship anyone will ever encounter.
Prayer is not a Performance
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25
Paul and Silas were overheard by others, but their prayers and songs from prison were directed to God. They were conversing with God through praises and petitions, coming before him humbly and audibly - and God’s response was amazing! Whether alone, with one other person, or an entire group, our prayers are to God. Jesus gives instructions concerning prayer when the disciples ask him, and it’s a matter of sincerity and love for God (not a graded assignment). Women may generally be more verbal creatures, but for all of us, confidence and maturity in prayer grows through practice and study of God's Word.
Men are Spiritual Leaders
"I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling." 1 Timothy 2:1-8
As your sisters in Christ, we hope to be the helpers God wired us to be. In order for this to happen, we need you to lead. We’re not concerned with your eloquence, but with your genuine efforts. Cast aside fear and laziness, and put on selflessness and devotion (Ephesians 4:22-24). Pray fervently in your private time with God, but also lead the church in praying together. Praise God for who he is, and thank God for how he is at work. Confess your sins to him. Pray over the needs of others and yourself. Pray that God be glorified in all things, and lead other believers to do the same.
Abraham, Isaac and Moses prayed. Nehemiah prayed. Jesus prayed. The early church prayed. There are mysteries and struggles involved, but let us do the same - praying specifically and praying BIG. May we love God and love others through prayer!
A few scriptural references to prayer -- Nehemiah 1, Luke 11:1-13, Acts 4:23-31 & 12:1-17, Romans 8:26-27, Ephesians 6:18-20, Philippians 4:6-7 (also, see the book of Psalms for many prayers interspersed)