Civic prayers are an interesting component of ministry. It’s one thing to pray among persons who think, act, believe in ways similar to your own. It’s another to pray with others who may think, act, and believe differently. For instance, on a Sunday morning, there is a certain pattern to prayer and certain things that are said. “Jesus” gets brought up a whole lot as we offer thanks and praise, as we offer our confession, and as we ask for guidance and help. When we use terms like “Gracious Lord,” our church culture has some understanding of what it means for God to be gracious–saving us from our sins, saving us from ourselves, saving us from each other, saving his people. When we offer up thanksgiving, recognizing that all that we have belongs to God, it springs from a deeply held belief in the Scriptures where all things are created by our God of creation. When outside of the church, these connections are less clear.
Therefore, outside of church, there is a call for the prayers of Christians to appeal to a wide audience. While the one praying may be a Christian, he or she can’t assume that those around them are Christians as well. There may be some who are of other faiths, of no faith, or those who have had painful experiences in churches or with Christian coworkers, friends, or family. It can be tricky as we try to build bridges with civic prayers and not build up walls between us and the culture around us. Nevertheless, public prayers are prayers outside of your own church community.