Thursday, July 25, 2013

Creating a Sense of Worship - Part Three

In our previous two posts we discussed various aspects of how to create a sense of worship during a church service. You can read part one here. You can read part two here. As we continue that discussion, it is important for us to consider an often neglected aspect of worship, prayer. Churches often talk about the importance of prayer, yet very little prayer takes place during a church service.

In my experience, I have seen two styles of prayer predominantly used. One is the pastoral prayer. At some point in the service the pastor, or perhaps a deacon, offers some type of official prayer. It is often for the service itself, and perhaps includes a few prayer specific prayer needs, but it is just that one person praying. Though it is possible that the rest of the congregation is fervently praying silently for things as well, that does not seem to be the case most of the time. This type of prayer often seems formal, stiff, impersonal, and rarely leads to a true sense of worship on the part of the congregation.

The other style I have often seen used is when people in the congregation share prayer requests. While I am not opposed to the sharing of prayer requests before prayer, what I have seen in most cases is that the sharing of prayer requests becomes more of a time to catch up on everyone's gossip. After a pro-longed time of learning way too much about people than we need to, someone offers a quick 60 second (or shorter) prayer that God would "bless all these requests we have heard." This is even less worshipful than the pastoral prayer option. This steals the focus from God and puts it on all the people sharing.

I would suggest that a better way of using prayer in worship is to have an extended time during the worship service in which people can pray directly to God, either silently or out loud. This would be longer than the 60 second pastoral prayer and would take some time. But if done correctly, can be powerful and moving. Instead of having people share requests with each other, have them pray those prayers directly to God. The rest of the people will hear their request and be able to join them in praying for it. But time is not spent gossiping first and then only giving a token prayer at the end. Instead, time is spent actually praying. Then, as the Spirit leads, the pastor, or deacon, can close the time with a more formal prayer and then perhaps close the prayer time with the Lord's Prayer recited together as a church. Thus allowing both individual and corporate prayer to take place.

Though I have only seen a few churches that have taken this approach, it has been very moving and worshipful in those that did. While there is always the possibility that one or two people will try to monopolize the prayer time with "sermonized" prayers, such people must be taught that God does not hear us due to much babbling or lofty sounding words. A congregation can learn to pray well and it can lead to powerful times of worship before the Lord.

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