Prayer – Elements of Worship Series (Part 10)
What was the atmosphere of prayer in your church on Sunday? How many prayers were offered? What kinds of prayers were they? Who prayed and what were the topics of their prayers?
These questions can tell us a lot about the spirit of prayer in services, and in our church communities. The New Testament certainly teaches the central part that prayer should play in the life of believers and, by extension, in the life of the gathered community of believers. I’m reminded of the many prayers that Paul offers for the churches under his care, the significance of what those prayers focused on (see Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-11 just for a start).
However, my recent observation has demonstrated something of a disregard for prayer in corporate worship. Over the last few months, I cannot recall one service in which more than two prayers were offered (before the Offering and before the Sermon), and usually one at the end to “wrap things up.” I’m inclined to ask if this is the best plan for prayer – or whether prayer is planned at all!
Some more liturgical kinds of churches will have prayers throughout the service, which certainly increases the frequency of prayer. In those cases, I wonder about whether those prayers really connect the people to God, since many are scripted or recited by rote by either those leading worship or by the congregation. Does frequency solve the problem of a lack of focus on prayer?
I would suggest that BOTH frequency and quality are necessary for prayer in our worship services. By frequency I mean more prayer, but not necessarily more prayers. An extended time of prayer at one point in the service may be a meaningful experience that would supersede that offered by five shorter prayers. A multiplication of praying by splitting into small groups for prayer can be another way to revive prayer in our weekly worship.
Regarding quality, I intend to convey both that prayers be planned into the service AND that prayers themselves be planned. As for planning into the service, prayer can be an integral part to developing the theme of the service by both bringing God our petitions, as well as listening for His answers (rather than a convenient time for the Worship leader to return to the stage!). We should be strategic about prayer. Why do we pray at THAT time in the service? Is there another place that prayer would be an appropriate response? Or an appropriate time to request something of God?
When planning the prayers themselves, I’m not suggesting a full script for every prayer, although scripts for some prayers can be very effective and meaningful. In addition, planning the topics of prayers is a missing art in worship (and in prayer generally). We should ask what the prayer should be about at any given point in the service. We can use biblical prayers as examples and tools to fashion our own prayers in the same way. An excellent resource using Paul’s prayers is Discover the Power in the Prayers of Paul by David Bordon. (May be out of print, but used copies are available.)
Overall, this part of our weekly services can be much more significant. Even by thinking more carefully about the prayers offered now, without adding any, would be an improvement.
Posted on April 20, 2015, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.