Acts 2.42 – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (ESV)
The early church devoted themselves – they committed time, effort, and more … to the teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread AND — PRAYERS. Many see prayers as something that are personal, private, and individualistic (or small group) – and not often seen in the equally important practice of corporate prayers. There is a power and a unifying spirit when the family of God comes together and spends time in prayer. This is not to be taken lightly. The early church was a praying church – and the church today should also be praying church.
I don’t have a lot of space to cover this, so let me just summarize some points. There are several types of prayers.
PRAYERS OF INVOCATION. A calling on God to give blessing and let His presence be made real as we are going into corporate worship.
PRAYERS OF CONFESSION. Yes, sin is to be confessed individually, but there are times a nation, or a church, or The Church, should confess publicly their shortfalls and sinfulness. The Southern Baptist did this years ago on their 19th century stance on slavery. Their is strength in humility and brokenness. It seems a paradox – but it is in our weakness His strength is seen.
PRAYERS OF ILLUMINATION. Prayers before Scripture reading or the sermon for the Spirit to illumine our minds and hearts so we can receive the challenge and truth of the Word.
OFFERTORY PRAYER. A prayer for a a blessing on the gifts and for the ministries that they will support. A prayer for a blessing on the giver that their hearts would be filled with joy and that their acts of worship (the act of giving) would be God glorifying.
PASTORAL PRAYERS. This is a highlight of mine – knowing the shepherd lays out his heart and his dreams for his sheep. He is interceding for them, their needs, and their part of the church family – and drawing them before the throne of God.
PRAYERS OF APPLICATION. This is second half of the prayers of illumination. Now that we have heard the Word, we now pray for application and for taking the next step in our journey in/with Christ.
There are a few more, but these are some of the main prayers to see in a corporate worship. They can be done by the leader, in unison, responsively, or even in song (just look at the Psalms as examples).
One great article (see below for link) had some questions to evaluate the prayer life of a church. Think about your church and the power of prayer.
• Do we have too many or too few prayers in our worship services?
• Is the intent and purpose of each prayer clear to all worshipers?
• Do we have sufficient variety in the types of prayers, or do we need more?
• Are there other methods of praying that we should consider including? Which ones?
• Are the prayers of our worship life generally engaging? What can be done to improve them?
• Are the prayers sensitive to the needs that worshipers are bringing?
• Do our prayers speak of our concern for the world and its suffering?
May we be seen as a people of prayer.