Today, all around the world, Christians will collectively meet to worship God. I wonder how many public prayers will be offered today?
I don’t know the answer. But it’s not hard to conceive it will be tens of thousands.
A disciple once asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” In that spirit, we offer ten suggestions and guidelines to help us more effectively lead other worshipers in prayer.
#1 Pray to God, not the audience.
Prayer is a petition from man to God; not a sermon to be preached, or an occasion to rebuke others, or proclaim some pet peeve.
#2 Speak so you can be heard by everyone.
In a large auditorium that probably means using the microphone. If in a smaller building, position yourself to be heard. Speak up. How can we be led in prayer, if we can’t hear the prayer?
#3 Make your prayer relevant to the occasion.
Giving thanks at the communion service is different than an opening prayer. Or praying for someone who’s confessed sin. Or a supplication during a church problem, or national crisis.
#4 Use the first person plural in your prayers.
This is not a personal, private prayer, but a public one. Include the congregation using “we,” “us”, and “our.” Jesus’ model prayer taught us to say, “Our Father…give us…forgive us…lead us.”
#5 Avoid long, rambling prayers.
Jesus affirms that God does not hear us because of our “many words.” Shun “vain repetitions,” hackneyed phrases, and worn-out cliches. Be concise. Remember, brief is usually better.
#6 If possible, think about your prayer in advance.
Obviously, sometimes we’re asked to lead on “the spur of the moment.” But, if you’re scheduled ahead of time, consider what you want to pray about. We expect the preacher and song leader to be prepared, why not the prayer leader?
#7 Honor announced prayer requests.
Often announcements are made at the beginning of service about those who’ve experienced a death in the family, or who are sick, shut-in, or asked for prayer. Take note of those requests, and specifically pray for those individuals.
#8 Consider the proper elements of prayer.
Again depending on the occasion, observe the scriptural components of prayer. Praise. Thanksgiving. Intercession. Confession. Requests. And supplication.
#9 Be sure your prayer is scripturally accurate.
Address God. Pray in Jesus’ name. Ask in faith. Have a forgiving heart. Be sincere, humble, and fervent. Always pray with the spirit that God’s will be done.
#10 Dismiss us.
Generally speaking, a closing prayer ought to be brief. Considering people’s attention span, the length of the service, and parents wrestling with little children, there’s no need to repeat everything in previous prayers. Appropriately dismiss us with God’s blessing.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (Jas. 5:16).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman