Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scripturalize routine prayers.

Last time here I mentioned a list of “Thirty Ways to Improve Your Church’s Worship Service".”  And it is worth your attention.  image

But one of the thirty stood out to me personally.  Many items on the list  are not unfamiliar to most of us who are responsible for leading the church in worship.  But #10 struck me, personally, as an important reminder.  (Probably because I know I get in this rut).  And so I draw it out for special attention:

Scripturalize routine prayers.

I was in a worship service in suburban Chicago one Sunday when "Joe" was asked to pray, something he had done in that church many times. As he spoke, a five-year-old boy near the front began to pray with him, speaking the same words in unison with Joe. Like a prayer duet, the two continued as if they were reciting the Lord's Prayer together, except that they were using "Joe's prayer" instead. Joe repeated the same prayer so often that a child of only sixty months was already able to recite it verbatim.

We've all heard—and perhaps offered—such "spontaneous" prayers in worship. Any repetitious prayer situation tends to breed repetitious prayer. For example, when I found myself in the situation of offering the pastoral prayer in worship each week year in and year out, I was tempted to repeat the same words and phrases since the purpose and goals of that prayer were almost identical each time. And the number and kind of prayer situations (such as at the beginning or end of the service, before the offering, etc.) in Sunday worship rarely change.

So changing the content of these routine prayers could immediately and noticeably affect worship. And there's no easier or better way to continually change their content than to "scripturalize" them. Use the words of Scripture as the basis of your prayers. Take part or all of a prayer found in the Bible (and I'm including the Psalms among the prayers found in Scripture) as the words you voice in public prayer. If you were praying through Psalm 23, for example, after reading it you could begin to pray with, "Lord, we thank You that You are our Shepherd. You are truly a Good Shepherd. Please shepherd our church, especially in the matter of ________." You would continue praying in this manner through the Psalm until you came to the end of the chapter or felt it was time to conclude the prayer. Another option is to pray your way through a few verses of a New Testament letter, again using the passage before you as the framework of what you offer to the Lord on behalf of the congregation.

In using this method you will not only pray about the matters you always want to pray for in these customary situations, but you'll be praying for them in stimulating ways you've never expressed before. Moreover, the Scripture will prompt you to pray about relevant matters that you otherwise would never think to mention. No other approach generates such potential for every prayer offered in the service—from the pastoral prayer to the spur-of-the-moment one requested of a layman—to be fresh and alive with the power of the Word of God.

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