Prayer: What the Guy in the Pew Wishes the Pastor Knew
- Thursday, February 28, 2008
On the other hand, if you are careful in your choice of words, if you come with a blend of boldness and humility, of privilege because you are a child of the King and of unworthiness because you have no right to be there in your own self, the congregation picks up on that too and that's how they will learn to pray.
What an incredible position you are in, modeling prayer for the next generation of young believers. It would not be out of line for you to have conversations with the Lord about that privilege during your weekday prayers.
4. It's really not necessary to pray lengthy prayers when you do it right.
We all would do well to take to heart the admonition of Ecclesiastes 5:1-2.
"Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools; for they do not consider that they do evil."
"Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth. Therefore, let thy words be few."
We recall from Scripture that Jesus sometimes prayed all night at crucial times in His life. But His public prayers were brief and to the point. At the graveside of Lazarus, He prayed, "Father, I thank you that you heard me when I prayed." He was no doubt referring to the prayers He had lofted to God during his walk of several days to get to Bethany. Now that He was here, it was no time for long intercessions. He had done the work of prayer; now the time had come to go to act on His faith. With that, He called Lazarus from his tomb.
Somewhere I heard of a pastor whose pulpit prayers droned on and on for several minutes at a time. One Sunday as he prayed, a little white-haired woman on the front row of the choir had taken all she could. She leaned over and tugged on his coat-tail. "Pastor," she said, "call Him Father and ask Him for something."
5. Do not pray your frustrations before the congregation.
Most of us have known people who, if they were carrying anger or frustration toward another, used their public prayers as an opportunity to chastise that individual. By inserting it into their prayers--along the line of, "Lord, help us to realize that" and "Remind us that," followed by his personal complaints about the person--it seemed less offensive to the one doing the praying and, in theory, put their hostility off limits to retaliation or response. Don't do that.
6. Learn to pray the Word of God.
The Bible contains some great prayers, some wonderful introductions for worship times, and some incredible benedictions. Few things would lift the mood of your people and inspire their own commitment better and faster than your standing before them and bringing them a blessing or benediction or intercession in the very words of the Word itself.
An invocation might begin with a great affirmation of the truth of the Lord's way. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ! For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Then move immediately into your prayer.
My favorite benediction is this one from the conclusion of Hebrews. "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Many times you will not want to quote the Word in your prayer, but let the Word direct your prayer. Consider the Beatitudes, for instance. What if the minister, during his pastoral prayer in the Sunday morning service, prayed something like this:
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