Leading a congregation of God’s people in prayer is a privilege but not an easy thing. Here are a few resources and then a few more tips.
- Kingdom-centred prayer
- 4 reasons every church needs a time of confession and How to keep it fresh
- How to lead a prayer meeting
10 tips for leading corporate prayer from the front:
- Written – it’s not a biblical law that you have to write out your prayers but it is a good idea: a) it means that you’ll remember all the things you need to pray for and not get nervous and tongue-tied; b) it means you can structure your thoughts and think through the phrasing so you pray prayers that are theologically sound and make sense (it’s very easy to start speaking heresy or nonsense when you’re up front and off the cuff); c) it means you can keep it short and to the point (it’s very easy to waffle and wander and repeat yourself when you are extemporary) – one side of A4 paper will be 4-5 minutes which is fine. Even if you don’t write, at least prepare.
- Biblical – use Bible arguments in prayer: appealing to his mercy, calling him to defend his glory/name, claiming the Lord’s promises (check they are actually promises that apply to us). BCP prayers are a good model: 1) address God using an attribute that it relevant to what you are about to pray for; 2) ask God; 3) on the basis of Jesus’ work on the Cross. You may find it helpful (but it is not essential) to structure your prayers on a Bible prayer (an incomplete list below). Another approach, which can be very helpful, is to pray along the lines of what was preached last week at church. We want to be praying the Word. But [warning!!] this is not the place for preaching – keep it short and prayerful.
- Look outward – it can be helpful to mention particular needs of the church family but in the public worship service it’s good to have an emphasis on the needs of the world, our nation, our leaders (1 Tim. 2) and the national church. It can be good for us also to pray by name for other Christ preaching churches which might not be in our denomination but are brothers in Christ and fellow workers. It helps to remind us all that there is only one harvest field and one Lord.
- Specific but not over-specific – it’s good to pray for particular places, events and situations. Let’s mention for particular people and things coming up in the nation and in the life of the church – missions. But [warning!!] we don’t need to tell God exactly how to sort those situations out.
- Check the details – check with the pastors for news of those who are ill and with those in touch with mission partners for up-to-date information on missionaries. Check whether it is ok to give details of illnesses or names or countries before you pray for them in public (i.e. be sensitive to confidentiality and security issues).
- Pray for the praying – both individually and together with all those involved in the meeting in the vestry half an hour before kick off.
- Pray the prayers – rather than spending much time telling us what we are going to pray for, just go for it and pray to the Lord our God. And when you pray them don’t just say them, pray them.
- Slow down – make your delivery slow enough so we can all follow and pray along with you. Short pauses can be really helpful.
- Amens – one of the great things about corporate-led prayer is that one person is speaking but we are all praying along with you and then we all agree with an ‘Amen’ at the end to express that this is our prayer too (1 Cor. 14:16). So let us know at the beginning how you would like us to respond at the end of the prayers. To keep us with you try dividing the prayers into three or four portions (with different themes) and closing each with a similar appeal through Jesus which is followed by a strong corporate “Amen” or “Hear our prayer”.
- Pray for the praying – all the way through the process. Prayer is a spiritual activity. Pray before you prepare that the Spirit would guide you to the prayers the Father wants to answer. Pray that they would be helpful to God’s people. Write before the worship service meet together with all those involved to pray through all the different parts of the service, not least the praying.
Some biblical prayers for inspiration:
1 Kings 8:57-60; Nehemiah 1; 9; Psalm 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 16, 18, 46, 47, 51, 62, 63, 65, 67; Isaiah 37:14-20; 63:7-64:12; Jeremiah 32:17-25; Lamentations 3:19-26; Daniel 2:20-23; 4:34-35; 9:4-19; Matt. 9:38; 1 Cor 1:4-9; 2 Cor 1:3-4; Eph 1:16-23; 3:14-19; Phil 1:3-11; Col 1:3-14; 1 Thess 3:12-12; 2 Thess 2:16-17; Phil 1:3-6,9-11.