One of the most awkward things a minister must do week-in, week-out is pray publicly.
We all know NOT to pray overly long (Matt 23:14), with pompous hypocrisy (Luke 18:11-14) or with babbling repetition (Matt 6:5-8). But we can’t really recite the Lord’s Prayer every single time either.
Public prayer is supposed to be an opportunity to model theologically rich and authentic discourse with our Creator in such a way it inspires youth onward in their own personal prayer lives.
If you’re anything like me, though, your public prayers can quickly fall into a rut because we feel compelled to pray at the beginning of a meeting, during or after praise and worship, to start a sermon, to end a sermon… you get the picture.
It’s also far too easy to make your prayers serve different functions. Every full-time minister has fallen prey to the announcement prayer, the sermon review prayer, or the Jesus-is-just-my-broseph hip/casual prayer. (And you’ve probably heard less spiritual people give gossip, self-righteous and humblebrag prayers.)
Prayer is a vital component of spiritual growth, so don’t leave it to the whims of improvisation. I’m not advocating scripting out every prayer, but definitely give it thought and preparation. (Scheduled prayers should never be dead programming space that needs to be filled by words.) Relieve some of the pressure to craft spiritually inspiring prayers off the top of your head multiple times each service by using these sources for inspiration:
- Attributes of God – In a culture obsessed with praying for personal needs and comfort, simply talking about God’s different attributes and great deeds will turn ears. Spending an entire public prayer simply praising God for who He is and the amazing things He has done will immediately set a different tone.
- Psalms – Of course, there are certain psalms you wouldn’t want to emulate in public. (Though I guarantee you’d get your students’ attention talking about dashing babies on rocks.) But the honesty and authority of the Psalms definitely paints an encouraging picture of what prayer can and should become.
- Scripture – God wrote some fantastic prayers through the people He divinely inspired to write the Bible. There’s absolutely no shame in quoting history’s greatest author when leading others in prayer.
- Classic prayer books – “The Valley of Vision” contains several Puritan prayers. Christians have been guided by “The Book of Common Prayer” for almost 500 years. Charles Spurgeon's “The Pastor in Prayer” collects the spiritual giant’s prayers. (And if you want solid advice on praying in public, read “A Method of Prayer” by Matthew Henry.) Any of these time-tested books can help you break out of any prayer funk you might be experiencing.