What Is an Invocation Prayer and How Do I Pray It?
- Jennifer Slattery JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com
- 2019 10 May
Some of the most powerful, life-transforming revivals began with a simple yet heartfelt prayer of invocation. When leaders and those they serve humbly bow their heads and their hearts and acknowledge what God already knows—we need Him—God shows up. He stirs souls, lifts perspectives, and sparks within His humble and yielded children a united, glorious, and eternal mission. The invocation prayer is one of the oldest types of man-to-God communication recorded. It’s the heartfelt pleas of a man fleeing from his conspiring son (Psalm 3). Of a king beseeching God’s aid and vindication after being betrayed by his own tribesman. It’s the ancient hymn seeking God’s presence and calling His people to worship.
Throughout the millennia, through song, requests, and praise, mankind have found sought God’s blessings and a deeper connection with Him, in essence, mirroring the sentiment in Moses’ words in Exodus 33:15 when he said to God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here." And with every church service, celebration, and group gathering, God invites us to utter the same plea. Our words, offered corporately from our hearts to our Savior, set the tone for our events, help us slow down and focus on God,creates an atmosphere of expectancy, stirs our surrender, and calls those present to a united, eternal, and God-led mission.
The prayer of invocation isn’t fancy or mysterious but it is humble and serious. It’s a simple yet earnest request, often made at the beginning of a faith-related gathering, asking for God’s present to be made known and His blessings to flow. Though the words one offers will vary, they must always be bathed in the humility, reverence, and awe befitting for one standing in the presence of their King.
How to begin an invocation prayer: We begin with our why.
Prayer isn’t about us convincing or cajoling God to bless our plans and desires. Though there’s nothing wrong with seeking His favor over our ministries and events, we must remember, ultimately, we’re here to serve and glorify Him, not the converse. Therefore, our goal must always be to elevate our Savior and seek His kingdom purposes. When we keep this truth in mind, our hearts will be more apt to follow, and when our hearts are filled with Christ, we can feel confident that our plans and desires are in line with His.
Seek Me, Jesus said. Ask Me. Serve Me, and I’ll flood you and your programs and events with the full power of the Trinity (Mat. 7:7, 18:13, John 14:12-14). But if you seek yourself—your wisdom, prestige, success and whatever arises from selfish motivation—I’m not in that.
We need to come with a posture of humility.
We approach God in a posture of submission—unpretentious and unassuming. We pause to remember and acknowledge His authority, sovereignty, and power. All we have, including buildings and ability, belongs to God. He is our Creator, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and the One who holds the entire universe, our congregations and events included, in His hands. He is the potter, the life-giver, and sustainer. We are the clay, His people under His care.
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit,” Jesus said (Matt. 5:3), and “The meek will inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). Those who are poor in Spirit recognize their need for God and their utter dependence on Him. As we pause to remember God’s greatness, our pride is squelched by praise. In this, the idol of self is demolished as our hearts give our Savior His rightful place.
We tend to associate meekness with weakness, but this is not what Jesus meant. To be meek, praus in the original Greek, indicates the quiet strength of the one who, operating self-restraint, stands firm under God’s control. It’s the life yielded to the Holy Spirit, similar to a powerful stallion who is willingly led by his trainer.
When we approach God with meekness and humility, we bridle our passions, willingly submit to His rein, and recognize our continual need for Him. In short, it’s intentionally remembering that He is God and we are not.
We must annihilate our self-reliance with surrender.
In our ultra-independent, entitled, and self-affirming culture, it’s easy to forget how much we need God. We may recognize our helpless, hopeless state when it comes to our salvation; we recognize there’s nothing we can do on our own to repair our relationship with God, which our sin and rebellion fractured. But we have a tendency to lose sight of this in our day-to-day service. We begin to rely on our strength and wisdom, grow prideful of our gifts, and compare our “righteousness” with others instead of against the standards and perfection of our holy God.
These tendencies birth self-reliance within, dull our spiritual sensitivity, and distance us from God and His power. By prayerfully acknowledging our ongoing and desperate need for Him, we annihilate the idol of self and, through the posture of surrender, position ourselves for supernatural strength.
Once again, we can turn to King David as our example. “Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death” (Psalm 13:3). “Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if You remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit” (Psalm 28:1). “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32). “O Lord, the king rejoices in Your strength. How great is his joy in the victories You give” (Psalm 20:1). “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay” (Psalm 40:17).
We cultivate reverence.
According to Got Questions, “Reverence is honor and respect that is deeply felt and outwardly demonstrated.” It begins with a properly aligned heart and results in outward expression and praise. As we contemplate who God is, all He’s done, and all He’s promised, our hearts become more firmly centered in Him. We begin to see Him, more clearly—as He really is. The God who loves and pursues, who rescues and redeems, who overturns nations and elevates kings.
David, Ancient Israel’s second king and the man God Himself said was a person after His heart, excelled in this. His prayers, many of which are recorded in the book of Psalms, often followed a particular, faith-building pattern. He began honestly expressing his hurts and fears to God, asking for help, then he’d conclude with a praise-filled declaration of God’s love, power, presence, and character.
“Good and upright is the Lord,” David prayed, therefore He instructs sinners in His ways” (Psalm 25:8, NLT). “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful” (v.10). “The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one” (Psalm 29:8, NLT). “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic” (Psalm 29:4). “O Lord God Almighty, who is like You? You are mighty, O Lord, and Your faithfulness surrounds You" (Psalm 89:8).
Again and again, prayer after prayer, David proclaimed God’s goodness and reminded himself of who he was in Him. He was able to move forward with confidence, regardless of the challenges, uncertainties, and decisions he faced because He knew all-powerful Creator God would be with him, would guide him, and that guidance would be blameless because God Himself was blameless.
We ask Him to purify our hearts.
Scripture tells us our hearts are deceitful and prone to pride and selfish ambition. It’s easy to convince ourselves that right is wrong and wrong is right. We can easily ignore and explain away God’s prompting and we can find “signs” and “confirmations” for our personal desires. If we’re not careful, these idolatrous tendencies can slither their way into our prayers so that, instead of drawing us closer, in submission, to Christ, we try to manipulate or cajole His will to ours. In short, we treat our all-powerful, sovereign Creator as if He were a Genie at our disposal who exists for our pleasure.
King David understood his propensity for sin, and in Psalm 19:12-14, he prayed against this. “Who can discern his errors?” he said. “Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” Not only did he recognize his need for a purified heart, he also understood only God could perform the purging. “May the words of my mouth,” he continued, “and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer."
Jesus often expressed the same sentiment, emphasizing again and again the importance of a Christ-led, surrendered heart. As we invoke His blessings over our events and ministries, may we use the opportunity to confess our sins, repent of them, and relinquish our desires and plans for His.
We praise our Lord.
Scripture tells us God inhabits the praises of His people. When we verbally acknowledge who God is and all He’s done and will do, He unleashes His Spirit within us, ignites our hearts with love for Him, and replaces anxiety and defeat with courage and joy. Praise doesn’t just remind us of God’s power; it releases it. In 2 Chronicles 20, when a vast and vicious army came against the national of Judah, following God’s command to stand firm, the king and his army marched into battle declaring, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever” (v. 21). And “as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir ... and they were defeated” (v. 22).
When ancient church planters Paul and Silas were shackled and imprisoned, they prayed and sang hymns to God. The result? “And suddenly, there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came lose” (Acts 16:25-26). Scripture demonstrates, when we publically and verbally declare the awesomeness of God, He reveals His glory in a mighty, life-changing, and enemy-defeating way.
We seek God’s presence.
God is omnipresent, which means He is with us always. He “[hems us] in—behind and before” (Psalm 139:5). There is nowhere we’ll go and nothing we’ll experience or embrace where He is not right there with us. He goes before us to prepare our way and level the mountains, break down gates of iron and bronze, and cut through bars of iron (Isaiah 45:2). And in James 4:8, God offers us a beautiful promise. “Come near to [Me], and [I] will Come near to you." This means, the moment we bow our heads to God, we can trust He is in our midst.
Therefore, when we invite His presence, we aren’t so much as asking Him to show up, as He’s already there. Rather, we’re asking Him to make us alert to Him; to help us experience Him in all His fullness and to soften the hearts of all present so that they’re receptive to Him. That’s a prayer God loves to answer! In fact, that’s one of His primary goals—that we know Him, deeply and intimately, and live continually connected to Him.
When we earnestly seek Him, we’re responding obediently to Jesus’ call in John 15:4, where He says, ���Remain,” other translations say abide or dwell, “in Me, and I will remain in you.” Not I may but I will. Why? Because “no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”
Through our invocation prayers, we corporately come to God humbly, with reverence and praise, invite Him to purify our hearts and align them with His eternal purposes, and invite His presence not just in our midst but within us. The result: God responds. God gives all of Himself to us without measure. All His power, wisdom, love, and grace. He blesses and empowers us to do more than we could dream and multiplies our efforts and ministry. Through us, He is, at this moment, expanding His kingdom rein, and not even the gates of hell can hold this back.
Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s a hybrid author with five traditionally published titles, two independently released, an eighth novel scheduled to release in April and her ninth in September. She also helped write Wholly Loved Ministries Bible study titled Becoming His Princess, (available in ebook form for FREE HERE!) based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament, and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and on her Crosswalk-hosted blog found HERE. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event. Sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to stay up to date with her future appearances, projects, and releases.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/SimonLehmann