Leaders: You Can Make Your Public Prayers More Meaningful

write your prayersWhen I was a new worship leader, I prepared like crazy for Wednesday nights and Sunday Mornings! I made sure the music charts were written out and CORRECT and that everyone had the one they needed. I would play through the songs multiple times on my own and work on any tough parts. I would create interesting modulation changes! This was all before we even rehearsed the team. Probably like most worship leaders, I took it seriously and prepared everything.

Except for any prayers!

Prayer was the one thing I didn’t need to think about ahead of time. I could always pray in front of others. I had no fear of it, loved doing it, and could make it up on the fly. I was good at it. Or so I thought.

Then one day, it happened.

I listened to several of my preaching tapes, and I was horrified at how trite, meaningless and unplanned my public prayers were. Sure, I could make them up on the spot, but there wasn’t much the people could say “Amen” to. You know the kind of prayer…

“Lord Jesus, we thank you Lord, for your mercy. Father, Lord, Jesus thank you for this time of worship Lord God and now we ask that you speak to us, Father through your word, Jesus, open our hearts Holy Spirit and give us ears to hear your holy word, Father, Lord God, etc”

If you are one of the people in the pew, then you recognize this type of prayer, because you hear it all the time.  There is nothing there that is wrong, but nothing grabs you and stirs your heart, like a good prayer should.

Listening to myself pray that day made me evaluate why I didn’t prepare my public prayers ahead of time. My conclusion startled me: Spontaneous prayers are better because they flow from the heart and from the moment, which makes them more spiritual. Plus, it is what was always modeled to me.  I don’t think I could have been further from the truth.

At the same time this was going on, I had been reading through a deep and rich book of written prayers called “The Valley of Vision“. I was even using some of them in my own personal devotion time.  They were enriching my faith and challenging me to more and more say “Yes” to way of the Cross.  I realized that a written prayer could be powerful, much more so than my spontaneous stuff.

I decided that for the next Sunday service I was going to write out the call to worship and my closing prayer and see what happened.    I did my regular preparation, playing and singing the entire sequence of the worship time.  When I got to the last chord, I paused and thought to myself:

What will we want to say to God right here?  What will God’s people need and desire to say to him at this moment?  We’ve declared truth about Him and the Gospel,and many in the congregation may have been stirred by this and to want to align their lives more with those truths.  What will the people want and need to say here?

This is a congregational prayer, a corporate response to our time of worship after all.  It is my job, to lead a prayer that the congregation can passionately say “Amen!” to.

Then, I wrote it down.  It didn’t take long.  I used it that Sunday.

The results were startling, and today I always prepare any scheduled public prayers I utter.   They are focused, well-thought out, more meaningful for the congregation, and I would add much more “spiritual” than many of the unprepared public prayers I have given over the years.  Yours will be too.

I want to issue a challenge to my friends in church leadership who regularly offer congregational prayer.  Perhaps  you think that writing out your public prayers ahead of time is un-spiritual and should be avoided at all costs.

You’re wrong!

I could use a lot more words to make my point but those two are the clearest and most concise and straightforward words I could use. “You’re wrong!” For the sake of the people you love and lead, try it!

I think you will be amazed at the difference it can make.

Check out the result of 4 different polls and the challenging conclusions arrived at in our post It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays.

About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on April 16, 2014, in Christianity, Church Leadership, Prayer, Theology, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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