The weekly, public prayer meeting of the church seems to be going the way of the Sunday evening service – they are disappearing. Among churches that still advertise one, many of them end up being Bible studies instead of times of prayer. Now there are probably tons of reasons for this, but at the root, I think it comes down to the simple fact that public prayer is difficult and uncomfortable for many, if not most. As I mentioned last week, some have suggested there is a real problem in the church today with people approaching prayer self-centeredly and pragmatically, to which I agree. However, many are uncomfortable speaking publicly, let alone, praying publicly. Some have had tough days at home, school, or work and are distracted. Some come out of a sense of duty, instead of devotion and delight. Some have not been spending time in private devotion or practicing the presence of God throughout the day, which makes it difficult to come in the evening and suddenly enter into worshipful dependence on God. If there is a temptation to self-centered, pragmatic prayers in individuals, how much more when you get in a group? If we can’t express our worshipful dependence on God in private, we probably won’t be able to do it in public either.
The result of all this? Many just don’t value the weekly prayer meeting and see it as a waste of time. As a pastor I long see myself and those in my congregation enjoy the blessing of praying to God as worshipful dependence, especially communally. So, to help this time be centered on God and not just ourselves, to help those who are shy and lack confidence to pray out loud, to promote our requests to be set in the context of worship, to help those quiet their hearts from a long day, to assist those who have not been praying throughout the day, to help those who are there more out of duty than devotion, the session of the church I pastor has changed the format of the weekly prayer meeting to a weekly prayer liturgy. The liturgy is arranged to help us worship, includes all the elements of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication, and has sections for corporate and private prayers. In addition to using it during the prayer service, it also provides families something to use at home to help their family worship.
Here is what we prayed last night (I have removed the specifics from the individual prayers of intercession):
ADORATION, CONFESSION, THANKSGIVING, SUPPLICATIONS
Call to Prayer
Yours is the day, O God, yours also the night; you established the moon and the sun. You fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter. Psalm 74:15-16
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. – Psalm 43:3
Psalm 96:9-13 Psalm 96B
Prayer of Invocation
O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.
O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouths shall show forth your praise.
Blessed are you, God of compassion and mercy,
to you be praise and glory forever!
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia!
The Lord’s Prayer
Prayers of Adoration
Psalm 147:1-11(1-4, 7 to the tune: St. Flavian) Psalm 147A
Prayers of Confession
Individual Confession of Sin
Corporate Confession of Sin
Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being, whose love is eternal and faithful, whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts: cleanse us from all our offenses, and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires, so that, with reverent and humble hearts we may draw near to you, confessing our faults, confiding in your grace, and finding in you our refuge and strength; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:1-12
Prayers of Thanksgiving & Supplication
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation. – Luke 1:46-50
Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you. – Psalm 116:7
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
Individual Prayers of Intercession
I. Denominational Ministries of the Presbyterian Church in America
II. Tennessee Valley Presbytery
A. Congregations & Ministers
B. Ministerial Candidates
A. Unreached People Group
1. Pray for the people group
2. Pray for God to raise up laborers
3. Pray for the Bible and other literature to be translated into their language
B. Church Planting
C. Persecuted Church
D. Local Ministries
IV. Missionaries/Chaplains/Seminary Students
V. Christian Education
VI. Grace Members and Friends
A. Officers & Candidates
G. Health – Extended Family & Friends
I. Other Member Concerns
VII. Challenges facing our congregation
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. So draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him all creatures here below; praise him above ye heav’nly host: praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.