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Is silent prayer the same as thinking and should we pray out loud?

Published on
17 Jan, 2021
Nigel Maine

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There is a great deal of uncertainty in the Christian faith about how to pray. We all want our prayers to be answered and of course we expect God to hear us. However can prayers be effective if we simply think them or should they be spoken out loud?

The disciples asked Jesus how they should pray.  In Matthew 6:7 Jesus says "don't babble on and on as people of other religions do". I believe that 'babbling' refers to the spoken word, what do you think?

Saying the Lord's Prayer

Jesus goes on to say "They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Jesus then says to the disciples "Pray like this...";

Our Father which art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts
As we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
Forever and ever - 

On your Lips

In Joshua 1:8 NIV he says:

Study this book of instruction continually, meditate on it night and day (meditate: to think!)

Keep this book of the law always on your lips (to speak); meditate on a day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you'll be prosperous and successful.

Keep this book of the law always on your lips = speak it out
Meditate on a night and day = think about it

And God Said...

Going back to the beginning, as in the Bible book of Genesis, look how many times God spoke::

1:3 And God then said let there be light
1:6 and God said,
1:8 God called,
1:9 and God said,
1:11 then God said,
1:14 and God said,
1:20 and God said,
1:22 and God blessed them and said:
1:24 and God said,
1:26 then God said:,
1:28 God bless them and said to them:,
1:29 then God said.

There are 12 references to God "saying".

Our world and the earth were brought into being by God speaking, not thinking. It does not say God thought the earth into being!

Don't think the worst!

For example; say someone really upsets you and you thought something bad about them. How would you differentiate that bad thought compared to a good thought or prayer? What would or should happen?

I agree, God knows our every thought, however, Scripture says we are accountable for everything we 'say' (Matthew 12:36).

I have heard people say that silent prayer is just as valid, but I personally do not believe this to be so. I believe that this is based upon the doctrine that God is sovereign and therefore can do anything he pleases. Yes, He is sovereign and can do anything. However, in this case one is assuming that God will differentiate between a good thought, a bad thought and a prayer request and then act on the prayer request.

This would mean that we have no responsibility for anything we think, say or do. It also means that we don't have freewill. It would add an enormous question about wars, murders, hate and selfishness and so on. Who would be responsible for that - God?

Your Thoughts are Worthless!

Not to put too finer point on this, 1 Corinthians 3:20 says the thought of men are vanity.  This verse also references Psalms 94:11 where it says the same thing.  therefore, It's not me saying silent prayer is worthless, the bible does.

Blessings & curses from the same mouth!

If God is love, then the argument for God inciting a war or any other outcome based upon a person's thought would be wrong. I believe it is religious nonsense encouraged by shy Christians and instigated by the enemy (Satan) to keep Christians quiet.

There is no scripture to support silent prayer. Every person in the Bible is either recorded as "saying" when praying. James 3:1–12 says that how can blessings and curses come out of the same mouth. And that a tongue can start the fire and that the tongue is evil and full of deadly poison.

It is what is "said" that has an impact on our prayer life. We are also told to "speak" in tongues, not think in tongues.

Words are Things (Davar)

It is because words are things that this area is so important.

The Hebrew for "word" and "thing" are the same - Davar. Words are therefore things in the same way and similar to that of seeds that are planted,. Seeds take root and grow and so do words that are spoken. Either to individuals or in prayer. Which is why James refers to the tongue acting like a spark and creating a forest fire.

In Samuel 3:17 KJV Samuel says to Saul what is the "thing" that the Lord has said.

All these references cannot be misconstrued as silent prayer being just as effective as spoken prayer.

Ofcourse I Love You!

After Jesus' resurrection, he met Peter and some other disciples after they had finished fishing.  Jesus was cooking breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Note: Peter had denied Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested.  Jesus said to Peter "before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.

After they had eaten Jesus said to Peter "Do you love me" and Peter replied, "yes".  Jesus asked Peter a further two times and each time he replied he did love Jesus.

This clearly illustrates to me that Jesus was 'undoing' what Peter had done, i.e. Peter created a chasm between himself and Jesus by denying him.  By recanting three times on the seashore meant that Jesus was able to 'undo' the problem.

Popular Propaganda

There are many popular quotations available on the internet and the one below is such a quote:

"God is the best listener. You don't need to shout nor cry out loud because He hears even the very silent prayer of a sincere heart." 

It seems inoffensive enough, however, there are hundreds of images with this quotation (See Google) on it which gets shared around the internet on an almost continuous basis.  BUT IT IS NOT FROM THE BIBLE.

NOTE:  God does hear and knows what we're thinking, but he does not act on it.  We have a part to play which is to say our prayers out loud.  I am saying that sitting at home or in church "in silence" is ineffective and not what God wants us to do.

Only Satan wants to keep you quiet, so SHOUT OUT LOUD...

Psalm 116

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!

Consider this; who would want your prayer life to be totally ineffective? Satan! He is the only one who would want to keep you quiet. So start praying out loud at every opportunity, in the shower, in the car, walking to work, everywhere.

There is an important point to make before I finish.  At the bottom of this web page are four elements to faith that include:

  1. Repent to God
  2. Be baptised to Jesus
  3. Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Jesus' promise!)
  4. We can ask for wisdom
  5. Lay hands on the sick for them to be healed
  6. Make disciples

Without 1-3 why would anyone expect God to engage with them, let alone answer a 'thought'.  If a person refuses to repent, get baptised and receive the Holy Spirit, how on earth can that person even attempt to wage spiritual warfare with the enemy, i.e. satan and his demons, if that person won't even do as God as instructed in the first place! 

I have heard many people say they don't need to get baptised, well, I don't advocate that at all.  If someone is too embarrassed to get baptised and believes their interpretation of what Jesus has said carries more weight, then on their shoulders be it!  I'm just going to do what is written in red (some Bibles show what Jesus said in red type). 

The more you pray and proclaim the name of Jesus out loud; you are scoring a goal for the team. Keep it up. Be relentless. Don't give the enemy an inch.

Know that you are blessed by God - Amen!