Leading Church Prayers
Why pray in church?
Because of what church is:
a. when SSAC meets, we are a local gathering of believers around Jesus Christ in his Word, a picture of the heavenly hope for Christians (see Rev 4-5)
b. as such when two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, God is with us (Matt 18:20), and so we can talk to him!
c. we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and so are equipped to be able to pray (1Cor 3:16-17; Rom 8:26-27)
- Because we follow our Lord’s lead in prayer. Jesus prays openly for and with his disciples (Jn 17), as do the apostles for their churches (e.g. 1Thes 5:18, 2 Thes 3:12; Heb 13:19 etc…)
- Churches are instructed to pray in Scripture (Eph 6:18; 1Thes 5:17; Jam 5:16; Jude 20 etc…).
- It is our privilege and duty to pray for one another so that we as a body might spur one another on in the faith and together turn away from evil.
- It is our privilege and duty to pray for those around us who do not know Jesus.
- Public prayer models and teaches individual believers how to pray.
To whom do we pray
The gospel model of public prayer is to pray to God as Father. The biblical logic:
- Jesus calls on God as “My Father” (Matt 26:39) and teaches his disciples to do the same (Matt 6:9-13).
- By his death and resurrection, Jesus has brought His people into the position of sons of God’ – this is the great adoption of God: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Gal 4:4-5)
- And God has given us His Holy Spirit – the Spirit of the Son, that we might take up our adoption as sons and call upon him as Jesus did: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, ””(Gal 4:6).
- Thus it is most appropriate to call upon God in prayer as “Our Father in Heaven” and to then reflect the Trinitarian order of our The normal iblical pattern of prayer is to pray to the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit.
However, this is not a hard and fast rule. The Bible itself shows us that God’s people can address God in many different ways including God, LORD, Almighty God, Creator, Mighty One, Counsellor etc. The content of our prayer will often inform the best name to use for God, even as as we remember we are always addressing our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ and in the Spirit.
During the Week: Preparing to pray
There are several things you can do in your preparation to ensure that prayer within the service is as helpful as possible for our congregations.
a. Praying well requires prayer!
b. Don’t be afraid to ask God for help in writing your prayers
c. The prayers you lead us in church should already have been prayers that you yourself have prayed and believe in.
- Praying well requires information and understanding
If you are on the prayer roster, it is your responsibility to look at the roster and make a note of when you are on praying.
Do you know what you need to about the allocated prayer points? It is hard to pray for our missionaries, if you don’t know where they are or what they are doing!
Contact the service leader or pastor to find out if there is anything urgent or particular that needs prayer. From time to time a pastor will be aware of a need that would be appropriate to pray for on Sunday.
Ask the service leader when you are praying in the service. If you are praying after the sermon sometimes it is appropriate to jot down a few points in the sermon and pray for these in your prayers as well.
- Church Ministries: childrens ministry; pastoral care, men’s ministry, women’s ministry; SRE in Schools; One4Life; Overcomers Outreach
- Church Leaders: Archbishop, Bishop, Pastor, Chaplain, student ministers; Bible study leaders; Church Council members; SRE teachers; Moore College; SMBC;
- World Events: natural disasters (and people suffering; leaders responding to natural disasters) elections; wars/conflict;
- World leaders; prime ministers; members of cabinet; premiers, governors; judges; (Caution – do not play politics in prayers. Pray for good governance, not for particular parties).
- Missionaries: Matt & Jen Lim (CMS); Viorica Tartaru (Nea Zoi); Open Doors (Persecuted Church) and Bob Mendehlsohn (Jews for Jesus). For more details see; https://ssac.net.au/missionaries/
- Church growth: pray for spread of the gospel; more people becoming Christians; pray for growth in Christian maturity; the fruits of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23) in church members; humilty, wisdom, service
- Particular church members: if you are aware of particular illness; work problems or pregnancy it is of to pray for specific people in the church. But make sure you get their permission first and don’t get too personal.
- Community Services: Police force; Ambulance; Armed forces; teachers etc
Writing your prayers
- Leading prayers in a public context will (generally) require putting your prayers to paper.
A word to the wise: Not many will be able to get away with succinct extemporaneous prayers without mistake or waffle. It is advisable that you take up with you a piece of paper with the text of your prayer, or at the least some dot points of the things you wish to pray for under each heading. (There are often times that a well worded prayer is so appreciated by those who are praying with you that they would like a copy of it).
Write out your text as you would speak naturally. This will facilitate you praying well in the service, and will help with any nerves when you are praying! Your prayers need to between 3 – 7 minutes max. This translates to roughly to about one to two A4 pages, with text at 14 font (for ease of reading) with 1.5 spacing between the lines.
Short prayers – if you have long prayers for a number of different subjects, it can be helpful to break these up into shorter prayers with saying ‘Amen’ in between. Not only does this hold peoples’ attention it also makes it easier for people to follow your prayers.
Leaving gaps – sometimes it is appropriate to leave gaps in your prayers for people to pray for specific people or circumstances relevant to them. For example you may say, ‘We now pray for those who are sick or suffering. Please take a moment to pray silently for those you know personally who are suffering.’ Then make sure you leave time for people to pray accordingly.
Write an introduction to your prayers – the sentence you say immediately before prayer is vitally important. It is very difficult for most people to instantly transition from one aspect of our church meeting to prayer. So an introductory sentence can be helpful. This sentence can help people to genuinely engage with God and not simply recite your prayers or bow their heads and listen along. Some introductory sentences could be:
- ‘Remember that God hears us, he loves us and he invites us to pray…’
- Are you feeling stressed or worried? What better thing can we do than pray to God…’
- The Bible urges us: Be joyful always, pray Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you. (I Thess 5:16 – 18). Let’s pray.’
Typically starting with “Dear Heavenly Father” (or some variant), and finishing with “In Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen” (or some variant) reflects the gospel model as outlined above.
- Praying well requires you making choices about what to pray for (and what you won’t).
The prayer points as listed on the roster are starting points and make sure that wecover those things we are committed to praying for as a church. If a significant event or natural disaster comes up in the week you can and should include these in your prayers, but please remember the time limit. If you are feeling pressed for time, please talk to the service leader to let them know.
A note on missionary prayer points: Our missionaries give fairly extensive prayer points on their emails – it is not necessary to pray for all of them in the service. They are prayed for at other events and in people’s personal prayers, so just choosing the one or two most timely prayer points will allow the congregation to stay with you as you pray. (A handy note is that if the prayer requires a lot of information to understand it, then you perhaps can leave that for those other settings).
- Praying well requires you remember you are leading others in prayer
When you are praying, please write your prayers in the 1st person plural (i.e. “We pray for”). You are praying with and on behalf of the congregation – our prayers are joined to yours, so it is appropriate that you would account for the others joining you in prayer.
Reading ≠ praying. Feel free to be as naturally expressive as you would normally be when talking to God.
- Models of prayer
There are a number of facets to a godly prayer. Some people shape their prayers by the aconym ACTS. They begin with adoration, move to confession of sin, give thanks for specific things and then enter supplication = requests, please supply.
Others follow the acronym: STOP.
- SORRY – We confess our sins, because although we are declared to be righteous, we still fall short of the glory of God in our In heaven we will be perfect, but in this life, we battle temptations of sin, the flesh and the devil (Eph 2). Our confessions to God are ALWAYS met with forgiveness and assurance of salvation by Jesus (1Jn 1:8-9)
- THANKS – We are always to be thankful for all of God’s provision to us – in salvation, life, hope and all the little things by which he sustains and cares for us (Phil 4:4-7). Your prayers should reflect this attitude and express specific things we as a congregation are (and should be!) thankful for.
- OTHERS – This is where we purposefully pray for individuals, communities, and authorities around Christians are to love our neighbours, and we express this in prayer as well. Your prayers will often include this category, especially as we pray for our governments, suburb, bishops and archbishops and missionaries.
- PLEASE – These are for more personal prayers, closer to For individuals in our church community, for things around our church, for decisions to be made, for our ministries and leaders. Again, this facet of prayer will come under your purview as you lead us in the service. Our rosters are an attempt to make sure that on a 4-6 weeks basis, we are praying for the things we ought to be praying for.
When we pray in a public setting you are not just leading the congregation in prayer, but you are also modelling to the congregation both how to pray and what to pray.
- Some helpful content guidelines
Use Scripture – the Scriptures will always be our best source of inspiration for prayers. Not only do the Scriptures teach us what to pray and how to pray (eg Matthew 6), but there are many examples of prayers throughout the Bible (Psalms, Paul’s letters). When you incorporate Scriptural prayers into your prayers you are grounding your words to God in his words to us. Scripture also pushes us to pray for things that we wouldn’t naturally be concerned with.
Use historical prayers of godly people. Throughout the centuries Christians have collected prayers penned by preachers, leaders, martyrs and ordinary saints. Prayers from the past can also be a great source of guidance for our prayers today. The Anglican Prayer Book is filled with daily prayers and prayers for special occasions.
For a modern collection of Puritans prayers see Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.
Sometimes the website www.bettergatherings.com will put up prayers for special occasions such as Anzac Day and Easter or significant world events such as natural disasters.
- Other helpful books are:
- Praying with the Bible by Philip Law
- A call to prayer: public worship through the Christian year by C Micklem
- Prayer and the voice of God by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne.
7. On the day of Church Service
- Turn up to church 20 minutes before the service begins. This will allow you to talk to the service leader about when you are praying in the service, and to be a part of the prayer for the service.
- Bring your piece of paper with you up to the lectern, which should be clear for you to put your paper on.
- Wear something that suits the style of the service. If people cannot recall what you are wearing that day, then that is perfect!
- With the service leader, you will need to work out when you can make your way down to the front of church ahead of the prayer time being announced. You want to be able to get straight up without too much delay at the appropriate time.
- If the microphone is poorly positioned, please adjust it to your height, so that the congregation can hear you. You will still need to project your voice, to about the 3rd-4th row of the church – the microphone will carry your voice to the back from there.
8. In the service
- Introduce the content – because you are leading us in prayer, it is helpful to let the congregation know who and what things we are praying for before you pray. Stylistically, you don’t have to remind people that you have been told to pray for these things, rather you could announce your prayers:
e.g. Today we will be thanking God for His Salvation, for our childrens ministry and for our Premier and Prime Minister. Please join me.
- Introduce the prayers as you have practiced with your introductory line
- Pray at a ‘just slower than natural’ pace. In the adrenalin rush of getting up in front of people, it is easy to speak way too fast (which is distracting for those praying in the congregation).
- Pray your prayer as you have practiced – remember God is on your side – He will give you the resources to do it as well as you can.
- At the end of your prayer, simply move back to your original seat.