Am I praying wrong?
Two kinds of people ask this question, I find. The first is the person who is new to this whole prayer thing. They have come to faith in Jesus in some way either through a quiet shift or a dramatic leap. And now they find themselves engaged with other people of faith, practicing the things that people of faith do. I've noticed that two of the most intimidating things they are asked to do is read weird, indecipherable lists of names from the Old Testament and to pray out loud. It's a little intimidating to come across the name Maherhalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:1,3), Zaphnathpaaneah (Genesis 41:45) or Churchanrishathaim (Judges 3:8-10) even if you did do Hooked On Phonics as a kid.
But then someone asks you to pray. Out loud. For someone. Your heart rate elevates, your mouth dries up, your brain goes blank. (That would be called a stress response.) The problem we are facing is we are being concerned about the wrong person. Prayer is to God, for us. Our stress about praying out loud around other people is we are focused on what they think more than what God thinks.
In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about the wrong way to pray before he talks about the right way to pray. In the examples he gives about the wrong way to pray, it is ultimately about the heart of the person praying. Your prayers reveal your heart.
The only way to pray wrong has nothing to do with words, eloquence, clarity or content. The only way to pray wrong is with pride in yourself.
So here's how to read those weird names out loud and to pray out loud. For the names...just say the first letter. Boom.
The next time you pray out loud, pray to an audience of One - your loving heavenly Father. You're his kid, he's going to love it. And anyone else listening will be just fine.
Peace and grace,