It’s a painful experience brought on by an absent-minded brain malfunction. Inner conversation breaks through the “STOP TALKING!” filter in our brains and thoughts become spoken words. That’s an Accidental Public Confession, and it is usually quickly followed by, “Did I say that out loud?”
Here’s an example: He is chewing a big bite of tough steak that has the consistency of cowboy-boot leather. The bite keeps getting bigger and bigger and he’s afraid he will choke if he tries to swallow. He takes a big gulp of lemonade to act as lubricant as she asks him, “Do you like the steak, honey? I went to a special effort to cook it just the way you like it.” As he finally gets the steak/leather to go down his gullet, he thinks, “Wow, this is your special effort? I’d hate to see how you fix steak the normal way. I don’t think I’d have the stomach for it.” In the awkward silence afterwards, he asks sheepishly, “Did I say that out loud?” She smiles and thinks, “Are you always this stupid, or are you making a special effort today?” Then smiles sarcastically and says, “Did I say that out loud?”
Did we think it? Did we say it? Oh, no! We DID say that out loud. Accidental Public Confessions. Closely related to “Open Mouth, Insert Foot.” Have you been there? Done that? I know it’s happened, because I know I’m not the only one. Our mouths get distracted by the things our brains are thinking.
Take our time in prayer. We don’t like to pray out loud, so we bow our heads, close our hearts, and being our internal prayers. Soon, however, we begin thinking about something that someone said that hurt our feelings, and we stop praying and start reliving the hurtful event. And since we don’t like to pray out loud, sometimes our thoughts wander to what we still have on our To-Do List, and our eyes grow heavy. Moments later, we jerk ourselves awake, ashamed we have just acted like Peter, James, and John and could not even stay awake to pray.
We often find it difficult to pray out loud. We compare ourselves to those who pray with poetic sounding words and beautifully flowing praises, or even those who pray in an informal conversational way. We don’t know how to pronounce those biblically sounding words. We forget where the scriptures are found. We feel self-conscious, tongue-tied, embarrassed, illiterate, or intimidated.
Here’s the thing about praying out loud. It takes courage, practice, and confidence.
We need to courageously realize that prayer is something we learn to do. Perhaps it would help us to pray out loud when we are alone. Or maybe write out our prayers before we speak them. We have confidence that God yearns to hear our voice talking to Him. He does not expect our prayers to sound like anyone else’s prayers. Short, heartfelt prayers are precious sounds in God’s ear.
God doesn’t grade our prayers. He doesn’t keep a list of “The Great Prayers of the Saints.” But when we pray, just maybe God nudges Jesus, winks at the Holy Spirit, and says, “Listen. That’s the sweet sound of my child praying.”
Then we can smile at God in worship and praise and confidence. Yes, we did say that out loud. Amen.
Verna Davis, speaker and writer, may be reached at Vrdspeaks@gmail.com.