I firmly believe that when one prays, one should pray out loud.
Hide in a closet. Whisper it under your breath. Shout it from the rooftops. Say it through a sound system. Just don’t – for the love of God – pray in your mind.
Not because it’s sinful, not because of some theological technicality, but because terrible things happen when you don’t pray out loud.
Having been brought up in a very Christian home, I have been taught, from a very young age, to pray. We work up the ranks of prayer, like in the military – you start off in charge of food. Then you earn the right to pray for the day. Slowly, you move on to praying over events, then for people, and if you really work hard and get your stripes, you might even be able to engage in spiritual warfare.
(the sound of that always frightened me. “Spiritual warfare”? If people fought wars like how I prayed, they would cease fire and break for lunch at noon, then forget to even continue fighting)
As a very young boy who was very reluctant to pray, even if it’s just for the food, my standard prayer for the food went like this:
“Dear God: Thank you for the food. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Later I found out that “amen” meant “so be it”. I imagine God would have been very confused if He weren’t, you know, God.
He must have facepalmed multiple times over the prayers offered to Him.
I grew up (thank God), and after joining in the works of ministry as a small-group leader, people began to expect me to give thanks for the food. Now I’m older, and as a spiritual leader, one-sentence prayers were no longer acceptable.
I learned later, from the funniest man I know, that the shortest acceptable prayer for the food goes like this:
“Dear God: Thank you for the food. Sanctify it and may it strengthen and nourish our bodies. Bless our fellowship, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
(“sanctify” is another word that still scares me. It brings to mind food that has been so heavily disinfected it tastes more like cleaner fluid than actual food. That, or double-boiled chicken breast without the skin. I cannot decide which is worse)
It’s easy, it covers every area, and it sounds respectable. It’s a trustworthy script, and I use it to this day.
See, the problem begins when I don’t pray out loud.
My speaking speed is already fast enough to be incomprehensible. Think about how quickly your brain processes words – in between the individual words of this post, your brain has went through sentences of things you’ve read before, and some more of your own opinion. Now imagine how fast words blur through my mind.
Earlier this afternoon, as I sat down for lunch in the workplace’s (terrible) cafeteria, I gave thanks for my food, going through the words in my head:
“Dear God: Thank you for the food, sanctify and nourish our fellowship, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
Somewhere in heaven, I imagine God facepalmed.