In the past few years, I have given a clear and consistent call to bring prayer back into public worship services in the church. I want to lift up a specific and significant way to do this today.
We Need to Recapture the Pastoral Prayer
Prayer led by the pastor of the church used to be a normal part of worship services. What was deemed in the past as a part of public worship, has now been minimized, eliminated, or delegated. This is not acceptable or good for the church.
There are several examples in the Scriptures where spiritual leaders called out to God in prayer before the people of God. Their prayers were passionate, from the heart, and meaningful. Prayers offered by the pastor of the church during worship services should be the same way.
When Pastors Pray in Public Worship Services
Prayer by the pastor should be one of the highest moments in public worship services. As the spiritual leader of the church, the pastor is standing in the gap, calling out to God in prayer for the church. This moment of public intercession can be absolutely powerful.
I would like to suggest these things for consideration:
The pastor needs to set the context for this prayer moment. He can do this before or after asking the congregation to bow their heads, preparing to pray. Setting the stage for this moment needs to be an important part of worship planning.
The timing for the pastoral prayer is very important. Personally, I like to set it just before the offering is received, prior to the final song before the message. Many times, the previous song can help me set the context and the moment. Not only is the timing important, but the amount of time allocated for the prayer is important. Allocate enough time for a four to five-minute prayer led by the pastor. Having latitude to follow the Spirit of God is key in any worship service. If we are not careful, we are going to schedule God right out of our public worship services in the church.
Teach your people how to agree in prayer with you. As pastor, they need to be engaged with you while you are praying. They do not need to just be listening in, but involved with you in prayer. They can agree with you verbally while you pray. As we turn the church house into a house of prayer for the nations, people need to become involved as you pray.
While the pastoral prayer is determined to happen within a set time or to help create an atmosphere, what the pastor prays about should be planned as well. This is very important. The pastor needs to set this in his planning, so he can go forward that moment with purpose. If this is not planned, it can become meaningless and disconnected. The pastor can even list the topics of prayer to the people before the prayer begins.
When the pastoral prayer occurs, after setting the context in the best timing within the public worship service, and after planning for this moment, the pastor should pray with a strong conviction. A conviction is not just something that you have in your heart, it something that has you. Convictional prayer will illustrate to the people that you pray because you believe in it, and it really matters. It does work and it does matter, so pray with conviction.
When the pastor prays before the church in a public worship service, he needs to pray passionately. The people will become passionate in their prayers when they see modeled before them a pastor who prays with passion. Never should we be afraid to have our emotions involved while we are praying, from enthusiasm to expectation, to weeping, and perhaps even shouting. Regardless, be authentic, but make sure you are passionate.
National and Global
I am convinced that the pastoral prayer needs to be a time the church is led to pray for national and global needs. Pastors and churches need to pray for our national leaders, and about situations existing in the nation and across the globe. If we really believe prayer matters, we need to pray for national and global issues.
While most of the time I kneel in reverence to God when I do my pastoral prayer, this past week, I walked around the stage while I prayed. This is something I determined at that moment and not before. By the way, I think it is very healthy for the people of God to see their pastor kneel as he intercedes for the people and national and global issues.
Recapture the Pastoral Prayer
Pastor, recapture the pastoral prayer in your public worship services. I promise you, you will never regret it. You are the Worship Leader of the church; therefore, lead like it.