How many times have you been a part of this scenario? The service starts promptly on time (or not) (and sometimes after a five minute countdown on the big screen)! The choir sings. A song is sung while everyone stands. A greeting is made. A prayer is said. Another song (or two ) is sung. An offering is received. Somewhere in there a list of announcements are given. A special song is presented. A sermon is preached. An invitation is given. Another prayer is said and “you are dismissed.” I have been a part of this several times weekly for most of my life! I am sure many of you have too. Did you notice that part about a “prayer is said?” Is that too harsh? Perhaps it is, but I cannot help but think that too many times our public praying is just a formal part of a formal service (we aren’t formal, or course, but we do have a very clear order of service and sometimes it hasn’t changed in years). Do you suppose that there could be a better way to publicly pray? I think so.
Of course public praying is a pretty significant part of the Bible. You can see this from Hannah’s prayer for a son to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple to the Pharisee’s prayer of thanks that he was not like other men to Paul’s admonition that “men pray everywhere lifting up holy hands.” You can see it throughout Acts when they assembled together in unity, when Paul knelt to pray with the Ephesians, and so forth. Public praying is a vital part of our Christianity. Because it is so important, consider with me the following thoughts and challenges.
Here is what I will call some don’ts:
- Don’t make prayer just another routine part of the service.
- Don’t call on a person to pray as a way to honor that person. This often catches that person off guard or can simply draw attention to that person if they happen to be a guest. It can result in a formality rather than a specific and special time of praying.
- Don’t use “vain repetition.” Jesus mentioned this so be very aware of this one!
- Don’t pray unless you have a specific reason to pray. If it is just a routine and formal part of the normal service, then consider skipping it.
- Don’t pray unless you know why you are praying. Why are we putting the words “Prayer” in the order of service? Why here instead of another place? Why not earlier or later? What is the purpose?
Here is what I will call some do’s:
- Do pray. Genuinely. Fervently. Sincerely. Reverently.
- Do slow down. Approach this time of the service with awe and yet with boldness.
- Do remember that you are entering the presence of Almighty God. Angels are watching. Jesus is seated there. A rainbow surrounds His throne and created beings are worshipping. He hears and answers!
- Do remember that God answers prayer. Ask for specific requests and take them to God. Expect an answer!
- Do be specific. Ask boldly and specifically. When bold requests are made publicly and answered publicly the entire church rejoices together. Our youth especially need to see that God is working in the church. What better way for them to get to know God and to see His power than for them to see Him answer prayers in a specific and powerful way!
- Do pray in a reverent but normal voice.
- Do look for ways to make public prayer a meaningful and powerful part of every service. Set aside 5 or 10 minutes in every service. Maybe more!
- Do pause and let people know that it is a time for praying. Make the prayer time a special and “big deal!”
- Do invite people to pray with each other. Instead of mentioning “unspoken requests” have your people share the specific request with one or two other people so they can pray very specifically about the specific need.
- Do invite people to kneel. Daniel did so. Solomon did. David did. Jesus did. Paul did. Perhaps we should as well.
- Do consider raising your hands when you pray. Consider 2 Timothy 2:8!
- Do instruct people how to pray. John’s disciples had to be taught and so did Jesus’ disciples. (Read Luke 11:1ff). A reminder to simply take requests to the Lord may be all that is needed. A lesson on kneeling might be in order or perhaps you could teach some specific passage about prayer!
- Do invite people who desire special prayer or have a special burden to meet the pastoral staff or the elders or deacons at the front of the auditorium and pray together. This will take time, but may also open the door for some amazing opportunities. I did this once in a revival and in that one service I prayed with a mom for healing from cancer, with a lady who wasn’t saved but was considering her need of salvation, with a couple who was consider a divorce, and with a dad about his son who was away from God. It was a wonderful opportunity to minister to hurting people and to bear their burdens! Following that service I also received several messages from people pleading with me to pray for them and with them about some very specific needs. It was an amazing thing to me personally! I think it would be to you as well.
Public praying is certainly an important part of our worship. I challenge you to make it a special and powerful time!
What do you think?