Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Conversation of Worship - We Speak to God Through Prayer

Prayer is an obvious part of our conversation with God. But often, to the person in the pew, it is an undervalued part. It is perhaps even something to be endured rather than participated in. Prayer should be the time of the service where we bind our hearts together corporately to implore God for his blessing and help on our behalf. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple goes on for 29 verses in 1 Chronicles 6. Many of the Psalms are prayers set to music. The early church was devoted to prayer as seen both in the book of Acts and the epistles.[1] Prayer is a necessary part of corporate worship.

It would be wise to consider times of both corporate, or public prayer, as well as times of private prayer in the service. Giving time for silence of heart and imploring people to call on God privately to use the light of his truth proclaimed to change to their own lives and the lives of others is a vital part in leading the church in prayer and in teaching the church to pray. It would be wise for the worship leader not to be afraid of silence in corporate worship, but rather to encourage directed silence—silence of personal prayer directed towards a specific request of God for the service.

Pastoral prayers are important in not only calling on God for his mercy and truth, but in teaching others to pray. Pastors might do well to consider resisting the urge to extemporize their entire prayer choosing rather to plan their prayers according to a general outline.[2] The use of Scripture in prayer can also help to form our thoughts and direct our requests.

Prayer, like music, should be intelligible. The “catch phrases” of church life may be confusing to a church of newer believers, and may be blasé or trite to a church of mature believers. Thanking God for the “finished cross work of Christ” is an appropriate prayer, but may prove confusing to those who do not know what it means. While are prayers are not directed to people, but to God, our prayers are for people and thus should be intelligible to them so that they know what we are praying for and so that they can participate along with the person leading in prayer. Our wording should also be varied, so as to prevent vain repetition and to engage thoughtful participation.

Public prayer should be characterized by both reverence and boldness, rather than presumption, and should likely take a different nature than private prayer. The heart immersed in constant prayer throughout the day may breathe a sentence or two of “colloquial prayer” during a moment of thought. A corporate prayer should be less colloquial and personal, and in keeping with the corporate gathering of the church.

We may speak boldly with God, but still He is in heaven and we are upon earth, and we are to avoid presumption. In supplication we are peculiarly before the throne of the Infinite, and as the courtier in the king’s palace puts on another mien and another manner than that which he exhibits to his fellows courtiers, so should it be with us.[3]

[1] E.g., Acts 1:14, 24; 2:42, 4:24-31; 6:4; 6:6; 8:14; 12:5-12; 13:3; 14:23; 21:5; Rom 12:12; 15:30; 2 Cor 9:14; Eph 1:16; 6:18-20; Phil 1:4, 9, 19; 4:6; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 3:10; 5:17; 2 Thess 1:11; 3:1; 1 Tim 2:1; 8; 1 Tim 5:5; Jam 5:13-18; 1 Peter 4:7; Jude 1:20.

[2] See Derek Prime and Alistair Begg, On Being a Pastor (Chicago: Moody Press, 2004), pp. 211-216. On p. 214, Prime presents his own approach to outlining prayers.

[3] Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 55

1 comment:

LeX said...

I pray many times a day, and I was wondering- why do people pray using certain body language? Is there any Biblical text that sites the proper posture for prayer, or have people just adopted certain ways of praying over the years? I've always thought it was interesting going to visit the homes of friends, and how their body language while praying is different. Can you shed any light on this?