Are We Allowed to Pray Aloud?

Praying Together
March 1, 2021
Howard Bennett

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:6

I am sure that many of you have had struggles with praying out loud in small groups.  I thought it would be helpful for us to address this and, maybe, provide some help for those who, like me, struggle with praying aloud – primarily in groups.

In Matthew 6, Jesus provides instruction for us regarding prayer.  We are told that we should avoid meaningless repetition.  We should avoid using many words.  And we are not to pray as to be seen by others.
We are also told to pray in our inner room where no one can see.  So, why does our church promote praying aloud – in groups?  Is that okay for us to do?

We do want to understand that there are examples of people praying aloud in scripture – even Jesus praying on the cross (presumably) aloud (Luke 6:19, Luke 22:34, Acts 1:14, Acts 4:24-30).  So, Matthew 6 is not a prohibition against praying aloud but rather it is prohibiting praying as the hypocrites do.  It is prohibiting us from praying in a way to impress others, and it is prescribing for us prayer that is meant to be sincere and for the purpose of pointing others to God (and not ourselves).

Jesus describes the hypocrite’s prayer as being prayed by a person who is looking to be honored by men.  He prays in such a way as to impress those listening.  In Mark 12, Jesus describes these hypocrites as offering long prayers for the purpose of looking sincere when they really are just wanting the praise of men.
The intent of the hypocrites’ prayer is their own praise and not the praise of God.

When we pray aloud, our intent must not be to impress those around us with our many words, our spiritual sounding prayer or the eloquence with which we are able to express our thoughts.  When we pray – silently or aloud – we ought to pray in a way that directs the glory and praise away from us to where it belongs, God alone!

If you’re like me, this is very difficult when I’m praying in a small group.  Instead of really thinking about PRAYING, I’m more concerned with saying the right things and not sounding…well…unspiritual.

There are times when we do pray for the benefit of those around us.  We see Jesus doing this in John 11:41-42.  We pray in front of our children in order to teach them how to pray.  We pray in our worship services as a way to prepare the church body for worship and to set the tone for the rest of the worship service.  In small groups, we even pray to encourage those who are in need of prayer.  Those prayers do have a purpose that does consider the listener; however, even those prayers ought to be sincere and they should point others to God and His glory and not our own.

Praying in a way that exalts ourselves is a sin and something we ought to avoid.  As we pray aloud, let us seek to honor God with our prayers.