Is it Quaker to pray out loud?

I love vocal prayer, it's an important part of my spiritual practice. I don't pray out loud every day at the moment, but I have made a practice of that in the past, and I do when I am struggling. In order to learn how to pray, I needed to practice out loud every day for months, as well as getting experience listening to the prayers of others who made it a practice to pray out loud every day.

It's good for others I think: when people are distressed or struggling, we can pray with/for each other to good effect. Praying together helps to gather us as a community. It's certainly mentioned in the scriptural letters: praying out loud, and praying for one another.

Is vocal prayer a more common part of worship in your local Meeting/church? In my Meeting vocal prayer is pretty rare. It tends to happen on rare occasions at Area Meeting and Yearly Meeting as well, but it's not the commonest form of worship at all. I don't know of other Quakers near me who have such a need to pray out loud as I do, or who make it a regular practice. Prayer tends to mean quiet reflection or listening worship for Friends in my Meeting if I understand it correctly.

What do you think? Is it orthodox Quaker practice? Can you help me learn about how Quakers have prayed in the past, from journals or whatever? Does Barclay say it's bad since not spontaneous, as I suspect from my memory of skimming through his Apology ... a few years back?

Have you discovered the value of vocal prayer yourself? Do you sense that vocal prayer is something you need more of in your Meeting community?

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Hello Friend Alice,

Barclay, in my interpretation, seems to dislike vocal prayer because it employs part of the five senses, which evil uses to penetrate the soul. At first such a thought seems antiquated and nearly superstitious. However, after thinking about this for some time, I come to the conclusion there is some truth in it! I have always found when visiting other worships that the spoken prayers, in which I try desperately to pariticipate, leave me almost panicked as I try to put my heart in line with the words being spoken. It feels to me like a blindfolded Easter egg hunt with a timer ticking in the background...and everything must be gathered before time runs out with an "amen!" Of course, I fail miserably every time when trying to accomplish this, as I am at my personal best when engaged in "interior prayer."

I sense that while a vocal prayer may be a genuine heart-felt expression of faith and communication with God for the person who has composed it, many of the rest may be left to their own devices in trying to "match" that experience in the span of time that prayer is in easy task, dear Friend! Vocalization of thy prayer may be quite important to thee, and therefore may be a gift to thee from Christ. Be blessed by it! Prayer isn't always quiet for can get quite noisy in there without the utterance of one single word! My meeting agrees that we must unite in worship from the inside-out, not from outside-in. I suppose I am the product of that line of belief! So be it!

I hope my rambling has been of interest!
Every Blessing Upon Thee!

I have once been moved to vocal prayer--that the Society of Friends be renewed. This was in a sense premeditated--which is not, in general, a good feature--but it did feel like what I was meant to do at the time. I have once heard a vocal prayer in my own meeting; we had been sitting through a lot of "What are we to do about the world being so awful" ministry, and then one old man just got up & prayed--I don't remember 'for' what, except that it was the utterly perfect response to our epidemic lack of faith.

The trouble with vocal prayer... is that one is hoping one's companions will be moved to mentally join in. If a "prayer" is just something we are doing "ourself", they may well not like either one's sentiments or one's style. It's a practice that can easily manifest a sort of sanctimonious spiritual bullying.

I think it is a sign of our condition, and a deficiency in our spiritual competence, that vocal prayer is such a rarity among Friends. But I could easily see an excess of vocal prayer as something much worse!

What is essential, I think, is that God be inspiring, not simply acquiescing in, a prayer. We need to be more open to the possibility of this being given to us--and also to it being sometimes not required of us.
What Quakers have traditionally rejected is vocal prayer in preset language. Vocal ministry should not be planned out in advance, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with vocal ministry which consists in prayer. In fact when it is really spirit-led it's great.
Thanks so much to all so far for your comments.

I'm glad I took hold of the courage to start this thread, it's really helping me improve my understanding.

The trouble with vocal prayer... is that one is hoping one's companions will be moved to mentally join in. If a "prayer" is just something we are doing "ourself", they may well not like either one's sentiments or one's style. It's a practice that can easily manifest a sort of sanctimonious spiritual bullying.

Wow. Bullying?? Right. I'm glad I asked about this, I had no idea. I guess I see it as the complete opposite. Being willing to be spiritually naked in front of the community. To pray out loud is to show the other people my relationship with God, to show my own spirituality, who I understand God to be and how I relate to God.

I love hearing other people's prayers because they are showing me who they understand God to be, though that might be very different to my own. I don't think anyone's understanding is necessarily right or wrong, I understand God's peace to be the peace that includes and embraces us all. The God I worship is the one who holds the whole world, who intends only peace and goodness for all of us and who needs every one of us, human and the rest of the world, to be complete. I want more of other people's knowledge of God's goodness, so I can better feel part of the togetherness of worshipping the same God together. I'm offering my prayer not imposing it in any way.

Regarding it being an act of the self rather than spirit: as I see it, to pray is to ask for help to reach and know God. It's a way we can become united in the spirit. I am declaring that I am trying to reach towards God, and willing to be helped to know how God's goodness is operating right now. I think that's fine as a form of vocal ministry. I don't have a problem with being prompted to pray out loud from my own spiritual need: it's like an item on the agenda in Meeting for worship with a concern for business? "The item is before the Meeting": then God can answer that prayer through the Meeting or after it, by prompting words from others or silently to the soul.

I think God can inspire prayer, or lead prayer, by the need of the soul for God, not only from the position of unity with God.
If one is married--which is, in a sense, what joining a Meeting should be like--then being 'naked' would be utterly appropriate.

But if Christ's spouse here is still a virgin... and oh so shy!

The original movement was a joining of people who were already shacked up with God! They wouldn't have 'seen they were naked, and tried to hide!' Look, I'm spiritually shy myself!--and practically a hussy compared to some of the refugees from 'church' around here!

We have heard, in our lives, so much false prayer, so much 'Dear Father, Goodstuff, Goodstuff, and I hope we will all Goodstuff, amen!" I'm not complaining about what you're talking about; I just haven't quite learned to do it! So I was thinking of all the things I know people do instead.


The other week I had to do a message; I don't even remember the subject. But I'm once again seeing that this isn't about logical persuasion; what we need to preach is that nakedness. Paul Simon put it in one line: "There are times when even music cannot substitute for tears." What I needed to do, regardless of anything I could find to say to anybody, was to cry for them.

That is, of course, the best gift, and the hardest to accept.
In our Meeting, there are several people who pray out loud, when they sense an inward motion that leads them into prayer.

When I pray out loud in Meeting, I'm generally not saying "we pray...." for the reasons Forrest Curo has mentioned: it would not feel right for me to roll other people up willy nilly into the prayer of my heart.

Early Friends had arguments about who should take off their hats or kneel during someone else's prayer. So we know those early Friends did pray out loud in Meeting for Worship... but as far as I know, they didn't write down their prayers. Perhaps someone with a better comprehensive knowledge of early Quaker writings can correct or fill in.

"But above all he excelled in prayer. The inwardness and weight of his spirit, the reverence and solemnity of his address and behavior, and the fewness and fullness of his words have often struck even strangers with admiration as they used to reach others with consolation. The most awful, living, reverend frame I ever felt or beheld, I must say, was his prayer. And truly it was a testimony. He knew and lived nearer to the Lord than other men, for they that know him most will see most reason to approach him with reverence and fear."

-William Penn, of George Fox
Thanks Rachel.
What's a PK, Hystery?

... another form of Magic(k) (in either the Pagan or the academic sense but not in the popular sense of the word) in which one's psychological readiness to evoke change in one's own life (to cooperate with the Divine will?) is facilitated by the signal to one's subconscious through prayer, ...

I like the way you describe this. Walter Wink describes this same thing I think, about the importance of intercessory prayer to help us make the space in ourselves that allows God to work on us in his Powers books. I like the way you describe it.

I consider it a mystery how far prayer can reach in changing us and our world. Knowing there is a sound psychological basis - petitioning the subconscious mind to assist in aligning me with my understanding of what divinity is - allows me to engage in it whatever I'm feeling about who God is or who I am.

That holistic understanding of the path of faith is something I love about the way I have found. No forced choice between science and theology, no conflict between experience and scripture. Rooted in the divine presence and at one with the reality of the shared world we live in, as described in our scientific and scholarly endeavours.
I suppose the Quaker form would be RMK, for Recorded Minister's Kid ;-?
When I pray, it's most often "Come, come close, be with me, breathe in me, be my breath..." or "give me courage, focus, vision," or "unknot the tangles of self in my soul." Sometimes, "Thank you Love for your presence."

I consider it a mystery how far prayer can reach in changing us and our world. Knowing there is a sound psychological basis - petitioning the subconscious mind to assist in aligning me with my understanding of what divinity is - allows me to engage in it whatever I'm feeling about who God is or who I am.

I'd go a bit beyond this--it is not just that I want to align with what I now understand God to be, but I pray for my current understanding to be enlarged, opened up, broken and re-formed.

melt me, mold me, fill me, use me--

So hard to put into words.
All EFI Friends, and All African and South/Central American Friends pray vocally and corporately. Many US Friends where silence is part of the meeting but not all of it, also pray out loud.

At Freedom Friends ( a hybrid meeting in Oregon. We gather, and speak out loud our gratitudes and petitions before an extended period of expectant listening. After all who feel so led have spoken their gratitudes, I the pastor, knit them together in vocal prayer. I am intentionally modeling for people a dynamic and verbal relationship with the divine. I believe we do assent our hearts together, without much difficulty at that point, and it helps the meeting to be gathered.

We do not see petition as spiritually naive. Christ practiced petition. It meets a very real need of many people. Many in our meeting are in recovery from addictions, We sometimes do feel led to say the serenity prayer together. We do often have a WE, not everyone in perfect unanimity, but a graceful unity. This is what we think of as being gathered. It works for us

Peggy Senger Parsons
Or in a liberal meeting that does not record ministers, a KFWGVMF, for "Kid of Friend who gives vocal ministry frequently."

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