Prayer: What the Guy in the Pew Wishes the Pastor Knew
- Thursday, February 28, 2008
I keep reminding our pastors that when I drop in on their services, I come as a worshiper and not as a critic or advisor or their mentor. I come as a fellow believer. I consider myself a good audience for a preacher. I want him to do well, I pray for him and work at listening.
But, I'm about to violate that unspoken contract with our pastors. I need to tell you something that weighs heavily on my heart. Pastor, you need to give some thought to what you say from the pulpit. No, I'm not referring to the sermon. You seem to be doing well on that. I'm talking about what you say to the Lord, your prayers in the worship service.
In a typical service, there is the invocation and the benediction. In between will often come a pastoral prayer, an offertory prayer, and occasionally a prayer at the start and/or conclusion of the sermon. Some of those are spoken by staffers or deacons, but most belong to you, the pastor.
What follows is my impression of what the fellow in the pew would like to register with you the pastor. This is not to imply that he sits there thinking these things. In most cases, I fear he has long since abandoned hope that you might invigorate your prayers with fresh thoughts and uplifting praise and strong intercessions. But, if I were a wagering man, I'd betcha that the lay men and women who read this will connect with it in a heartbeat. As always, we invite them to leave their comments at the conclusion, in agreement or disagreement, contributing their own suggestions and anecdotes.
What Joe PewSpud wishes his pastor knew about his public prayers:
1. Remember that you are praying with me and for me.
This is not your private prayer time, pastor. You are voicing a prayer on behalf of the congregation. Therefore, say "We" and "our," and not "I" and "my."
At some point in recent history, some misguided influencer-of-preachers convinced them that no one can voice a prayer for someone else and that when you pray in public, you should use the first person singular pronoun. "I make my prayer in Jesus' name, amen."
My response is that this would be news to Jesus. He taught us to pray, "Our Father... give us... forgive us... lead us..."
So, make your prayers on behalf of the entire congregation. What are they feeling, where are they hurting, what do they need? What has God impressed you to request on behalf of your congregation? Pray that.
2. We're counting on you to lift us to the Lord's throne in prayer.
That means your prayers in the worship service should not be routine little speeches you are hoisting heavenward, but well-considered expressions to the Lord of the Universe. When you pray, you are making an entrance into the Royal Throneroom of the Universe. Come with dignity, with love and awe, with humility and praise. Think about what you are saying!
Pastor, do you recall times when someone else's prayers have drawn you out of your lethargy and dullness and inspired you by a divine quality that was far different from most prayers you've heard or offered? What was there about them--a sense of holiness, of immediacy, of awe and love and commitment?
Consider praying during the week about your prayers with the congregation, that the Father will teach you how to make these prayers alive and relevant and fresh.
3. You are teaching us to pray by your example.
Pastor, you are the only person we hear pray more than once a week. You are the great influencer of our prayers. Without ever thinking about it, we will begin to mold our prayers by the pattern you set. If you are trite and overly informal, we will shift in that direction. If you shout out machinegun-fire prayers to the Almighty in staccato fashion, something inside us decides this is the right way to pray. If you are cold and formal as though God is distant and we should be fearful, we will gravitate in that direction, too.
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