Engaging Prayer in Worship Gatherings
When Jesus gave us the “Model Prayer” also known as the “Lord’s Prayer,” he demonstrated for us the worshipful nature of prayer in the opening line: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 5:9) There are many expressions of worship, and prayer is one of them. As pastors and worship leaders, we need to be intentional with this particular expression of worship, especially in our public worship gatherings. Twenty three percent of worshipers admit to being the least engaged in a worship service during times of prayer, with many noting the reason being the prayers. So, as Christian leaders, we need to make sure that we strive for excellence in every element of our worship gatherings, especially in our expression of prayer. Here are three ways that I think we can make prayer more significant:
Make Prayer Focused. This seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. How many times have you been in a worship service and someone is asked to pray over the offering and they go off praying over their sick cousin, the President, the troops, and the starving pigmies, and at the end of their prayer, it’s almost like they forgot what they were supposed to be praying for and they tag on, “And please bless this offering. Amen.” If you are called on to pray a blessing over the offering, then pray for a blessing over the offering. If you are called on to pray for the pastor’s message, then pray for the pastor’s message. Your prayers need to be focused on what you are supposed to be praying for. One thing that will help this is:
Make Use of Prayer Books. This applies more to pastors and worship leaders than anything. Many people (especially baptists) are afraid of stuff like this because in their minds it is something that catholics or methodists use, but they just need to get over that. Many are also resistant to them because it seems too ritualistic or routine. I would dare say, they will help you get out of your rituals and routines of mindlessly rambling through your prayers. Just give it a try. Purchase a copy of Valley of Vision, and put these prayers into your own words. Watch how your prayers will start having new life instead of being so routine and robotic. Prayer is an important part of our worship, and we as church leaders should put care and thought into them as we do our songs and sermons.
Write Your Prayers Out. Much like how some view the use of prayer books, this is another useful tool to revitalize your prayer habits in your worship gatherings. Some may view this as inauthentic, but what is really inauthentic is when your prayers are scattered, aren’t cohesive, and have no effort or thought put into them prior to actually praying them. Those kind of prayers are fine privately, but you are publicly praying and worshiping, you need to put some effort and forethought into it. If you feel weird praying from a manuscript, that’s fine. Still write out your prayers. That exercise alone can help you stay focused and remember what you are wanting to say.
Don’t use prayer as a Transition. This is one of the biggest things that communicates to the congregation that you don’t take prayer seriously as a worshipful expression. You know what I’m talking about. The prayer between the songs and the sermon. The one you know is only there so that the worship team can sneak off stage. The intentions behind this are good. You want a smooth transition from singing to sermon, you don’t want there to be a bunch of distractions by people putting down their microphones and instruments and having to walk off stage. I get it. But the truth is, it is irreverent and it’s not worshipful. It communicates that you don’t take prayer as seriously as you do making a smooth transition. It is valuing production over God’s presence. I think that this can be a model for people to have a flippant approach to prayer. So, embrace the transition that is a little rough around the edges. Or think through a different method. But prayer is a worship expression, not a segway.