Should I Plan What I Pray From The Platform?
For a long time, I never thought about what I would pray during a worship service. My understanding was that if the Lord lead me to pray at any given moment I would decide on the spot. I might have known I'd open the service in prayer but I would wait until that second to decide what to pray.
And then I had two encounters that changed my mind.
First, I read an article which contained a quote that I'll never forget. "The Holy Spirit is with you, guiding you, just as much on a Monday evening at your kitchen table or Wednesday morning in your office as He is during a worship service."
Wow, this is so true! Somehow I had gotten it in my head that the only time the Holy Spirit could move in my heart to pray was while I was standing on the platform.
The truth is God is speaking and moving all the time. Are we willing to listen? He can clearly put on your heart something specific to pray when you're preparing your set list or when you're leading your congregation. Or both!
Second, my Pastor graciously shared an observation with me one Monday morning. "Brenton, when you begin the service you often pray the same thing"
I could sense that was the case but hearing it aloud confirmed it. I was in a prayer rut! I was leading our church in prayer out of routine and comfortability. I was missing a huge opportunity to shepherd our church toward the living God.
Most of us agree that it's important to plan what we will play (musically). Some of us may agree it's important to plan what we say (welcomes, calls to worship). Not many have considered planning what to pray.
Here are six suggestions on how to expand your prayer vocabulary for public gatherings.
1. Ask the Lord What To Pray
When you sit down to work on your set list, pray. Seek God. Wait for His voice.
Ask the Lord to guide you towards what songs to lead. To impress on your heart what your church family needs to sing that week. Then ask the Lord to reveal what your church needs to pray.
I remember planning a specific service and the Lord clearly put it on my heart to take time to pray for those who were encountering a hardship in their life. To ask the Lord for strength and wisdom and perseverance to endure.
A woman came up to me after the service and thanked me for my prayer. "It was such a blessing to me," she said. "You have no idea how much I needed to hear that, and you probably didn't even think twice about it!"
The truth was I had thought and prayed about it quite a bit. And the Lord was faithful to lead me towards a prayer that would bless His church.
2. Look Around
Think about specific people in your church. What are they going through? What season of life are they in? Is this a week to celebrate? To repent? To mourn? To remember?
Consider what is happening in your community. In your country. In the world. Is there fear that needs to be addressed? Is there hope that needs to be extended? Is it a time to look forward to our heavenly home?
3. Get The Bible In You
The more we read and memorize scripture the more the truth of God permeates our thoughts and language.
Let the Word of God wash over you. Let it get inside of you. You'll be surprised at all of the wonderful ways it comes back out.
As a part of my personal daily Bible reading, I write verses that stand out to me in a small notebook. Each weekend I try to read over the verses from the previous week. Often there is a verse or theme that is rich and current in my heart and I'll offer this as a prayer during a worship service.
4. Explore the Grandeur of God
Many of us have prayers that readily come to mind. We thank God for His grace. We remember His faithfulness. We receive His love. But God is more than gracious, faithful and loving.
Consider other characteristics and promises of God and pray in response to them.
God is Unchangeable
God is Infinite
God is Personal
God is Eternal
God is Omnipresent
God is Long Suffering
God has perfect Wisdom
God has perfect Justice
Jesus is the Living Water, the True Vine, our Great High Priest
The Spirit pours over us to fill us with His power and favor
And so much more!
5. Look At Your Songs
A simple way to stay out of a prayer rut is to look at the songs you're leading for the service. If you are praying before or after a song, consider the theme of that song.
Is the song about the goodness of God? Pray in response to God's goodness.
Is the song about the return of the Lord? Pray in expectation of His return.
Is the song about the Sovereignty of God? Pray in trust of His divine plan.
6. Respond In Prayer
Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has done.
Pray a prayer of praise for Who God is.
Pray a prayer of surrender and obedience to God.
Pray a prayer of confession of sin.
So do I think you should plan your prayers before the service? Yes. I think you should try.
The Lord may or may not put something on your heart to pray beforehand. He may or may not put something on your heart to pray in the moment. Either way, we need to be faithful to seek Him. The glory of God is far too vast to offer the same careless, nonchalant words of prayer every week.
When we pray from the platform we are giving words to our church. They are being carried toward the Lord on our prayers. Consider the weight of that and ask the Lord to fill your heart with a good theme!