Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Prayer In Public Worship

Thomas D. Johnson, Sr., D.Min.
Senior Pastor

Christian Worship rests at the very heart of our faith community. While we live out faith in our daily activities, the general assembly of believers provides a very important aspect for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and a member of the Body of Christ.

Firstly, let us revisit our understanding of Christian Worship. Franklin Segler, in his book entitled Christian Worship: Its Theology and Practice suggests that to worship is,

To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God
To feed the mind with the truth of God
To purge the imagination by the beauty of God
To open the heart to the love of God
To devote the will to the purpose of God

When we worship, we are attempting to declare God’s worth.

Thus, worship involves recognition of worth in God, and the offering of our honor, praise, and adoration to the One who is altogether worthy.

Now, a very important element of our response or worship is prayer. Segler calls prayer, “the soul of worship.” Prayer is communion with God. Now, our concern today is prayer in corporate worship. Here, prayer becomes the expression of the worshipping community (not the worship leader’s individual prayer concerns or other agenda). The person praying on behalf of the faith community must always remember their position. You are ushering the congregation into the presence of God. You are communing with God on the congregation’s behalf.

According to Segler, there are ten general principles that govern corporate prayer:

1. Every prayer should have a specific purpose of its own. A prayer should not deal with vague generalities.
2. Every prayer should have good form. It should be clear, direct and well constructed.
3. Every prayer should be directed to God. It should not be a discourse about God.
4. Old English pronouns like thee, thou and thine should be avoided.
5. The prayer should be delivered in a clear, distinct voice so that the congregation may hear distinctly.
6. Public prayers should not be too long.
7. Some planning for prayer is helpful if you are leading the congregation in worship.
8. Prayer leaders should be notified in advance.
9. The public prayer must represent the entire gathered community.
10. Prayers should not sermonize.

That being said, the congregational leadership has responsibility for our Invocation each Sunday. The Invocation is the opening prayer in which adoration and praise are offered to God. This prayer recognizes that God is among us. It focuses on God and not on us. The invocation may contain:

Address to God
A relative clause acknowledging who God is
A petition or simple statement of desire
The purpose of the petition (invoking God’s presence as we worship)

Finally, all of our prayers must be guided by sincerity. We are all servants of this body. When we are called upon to lead a congregational prayer, we must carry out that duty with a high sense of humility and sincerity.

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