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Congregational cage-fighting: A word on public prayer

Since the first century, the institute of communal prayer has been a foundational practice of Christendom. Ecumenical leaders have long relied on public prayer to encourage the body, explicate Biblical truth, and unite the church beneath a common language. Those of us who are not the sole Christian in our village/ethnic group/theater troupe, will – no doubt – be called upon at some point to lead a group of believers in correspondence with the Home Office. This needn’t be cause for trembling or trepidation. Nay, it should be embraced for what it truly is, an opportunity for spiritual showmanship of the highest order.

Like it or not, the Christian community is a cage-fight of religious oneupmanship and it’s no good being pious unless you can be pious in a very public setting. To halfheartedly recite prayer requests in the same conversational language you use to address other humans is to waste an opportunity that may only come along once an eternity. Don’t let this chance for discipleship domination pass you by. Reach out, grab it by the throat, and strangle it into submission!

First, furrow your brow as if you are deep in thought/slightly constipated. Take a moment and exhale loudly, but not too loudly. This conveys to the gathered mortals what a burden it is to be as close to the Almighty as you are. When you speak, your tone should be an octave higher or lower than your normal speaking voice. Go higher if you want to show passionate zeal; go lower if you’re tacking toward earnest sincerity.

The first words out of your mouth should be “Lord,” “Father God,” “Lord Father God Almighty” or some combination of all three. Whatever name you choose, remember it, because you will need to begin each subsequent sentence with that name. Should you become particularly fiery at any point during your speech you will need to say His name two to three times a sentence, sometimes all in a row. Throughout the monologue, your voice inflection should be a bit strained as if to say, “I’m in a lot of pain right now, but, for the Lord, it’s worth it.”

Body language is also important. If you are blessed to be behind a podium, you should grasp it with both hands until your knuckles turn white. If you are standing in the open, try clasping your hands tightly in front of your chest (use this only if you are taking the earnestly sincere route as mentioned above). A second option is to extend them in a V above your head (this is an excellent compliment to the passionately zealous tone).

Your prayer should be no shorter than ninety seconds, but anything longer than ten minutes will begin losing its potency. You must remember to mention “our nation’s leaders,” and – if you know your audience – feel free to subtly combat global warming with a heartfelt thanks to the Lord for the beauties of his creation. For the more seasoned orator, quoted scripture, the Lord’s Prayer, and use of the “Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer” format can bolster an already pulpit-quality prayer. These, however, are advanced techniques and should not be attempted by a novice.

By no means are these the only steps to a sufficiently kick-ass prayer, but they’ll get you started.  Whether  saying grace before dinner, or leading a 10,000 congregant mega-church in the morning prayer, the above steps will catapult you from apostolic also-ran, to spiritual superstar!

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