The Prayer Guide

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For Leaders



Prayers in Church

This section offers some thoughts for those who lead prayers or intercessions in church :


1.  There is an important difference between private prayer, and leading corporate intercesson.  Whilst you are leading the intercessions, you are leading God's people in prayer, rather than praying on their behalf.  Thus the way that you pray will be different from your own private prayer. In this way, the corporate act of intercession is the sum of the individual thoughts and prayers, combined with the words and prayers spoken from the front.
2. For this corporate prayer happen effectively, the congregation will be praying along the lines that you lay before them, and extending them as individual hearts and minds engage with the topics for prayer.  It is important that they hear what you are praying, so those leading intercessions need to be audible, and to speak clearly and slowly.
3. A clearly defined structure to the intercessions will help people pray.  The most common structure in Anglican worship is : prayer for the Church : then for the World : for  Our Community, ending up with prayer for Others.  Sometimes we may add ourselves onto the end. If the intercessions during worship have a similar structure each week, it will help church members know where the prayers are going, and free them to pray, and respond to the Spirit's prompting. You might also like to pray for the church's leadership and for mission.
4.  A congregational response is a good way of marking out the structure, and bringing silences to and end.  If you are using a congregational response, it is a good idea to introduce it clearly at the beginning, unless it never varies from week to week. Even then, it's worth mentioning it occasionally since there may well be newcomers coming into the church.
5. Using silence in your prayers can be very powerful.   Silence in corporate worship allows a transition from corporate prayer, where we join in common petitions, to private prayer, where we spend time individually with God.    Often it is a good idea to direct people's prayers into the silence, either as a part of the prayers eg "Father, we now bring before you in the silence of our hearts those who are known to us to be in need." or in directing the congregation. "We'll keep a short time of quiet when we can pray about our response to the situation in Africa."
6. Watch your language!  Leading prayers does not require a degree in poetry and prose, but is possibly most effective in simple, clear everyday language. God is not impressed by complex phrasing, and long words, but His interests lie in what our hearts really desire.  Try to use simple language which avoids Christian jargon and acronyms.
7. It's important to be up to date with the news, both national and local events, and also the current status of those who will be prayed for who are sick. Before leaving for church, check the news, and make sure that you arrive sufficiently early to check with the minister for any recent bereavements or other news that should be included.
8. The length of intercessions clearly varies from church to church. However, the role of those leading prayers is not to cover everything, since either prayers are based around unspecific "catch-all" phrases, or the service will last all day!  It is probably best to pray generally for the topic in one sentence, and then to focus on one or two specifics. 
9. Avoid the temptation to teach during prayers : prayers are from the people to God, not vice-versa!!  Also be extremely careful when praying about subjects which may be sensitive to members of the congregation, such as divorce, etc.
10.  You will need to prepare thoroughly. Whether you use a script, or just notes is upto you, but in either case, it is unlikely that you will be able to do justice to the responsibility of leading God's people in prayer without spending some quality time ahead of the service. Preparation does not limit your ability to amend your plans, building in appropriate links with the sermon, for example - one way of doing this is to use paper with wide margins so that you can make notes. This preparation should probably include a time of private prayer, praying through the topics you will lead prayers for.