Congregational prayer is authorized in I Corinthians 14:1-16, among other passages. One man leads a prayer while the whole assembled body prays along with him. Since the man is leading the congregation, he should pray for things that pertain to the whole congregation. He is giving voice to the prayers of everyone. Thus preparation is of great importance.
All of our worship must be in truth and spirit (John 4:24).
Praying in Truth
Only a child of God may lead in prayer.
- Jesus taught us to address our prayers to "our Father" (Matthew 6:9). One cannot call God his Father unless he has been born again (John 3:3).
- All spiritual blessings, including prayer, are found only in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). In order to be in Christ we must believe and be baptized (Galatians 3:26-27).
- Applicable Old Testament principles: Psalm 34:15-18; 66:16-20; Proverbs 15:29; 28:9; Isaiah 59:1-2.
- God is pleased to hear prayers from those who are pleased to hear him (Acts 10:1-4).
Speak only as the Oracles of God (I Peter 4:11). It is just as possible for a person to pray or sing something false as it is to teach something false.
Pray in Spirit
- Sincerity: Jesus condemns the prayers of play actors (Matthew 6:5).
- Humility (James 4:10). As our Savior prayed "Thy will be done" (Luke 22:42).
- In faith (James 1:6-8; I John 5:14).
- Persistently (I Thessalonians 5:17).
- May we live as we pray.
The Content of Our Prayers
- We pray to God the Father (Matthew 6:9). Jesus is our mediator (I Timothy 2:5).
- Give praise (Matthew 6:9).
- With thanksgiving (I Timothy 2:1).
- Making supplications (I Timothy 2:1)
- Confession of wrong (Matthew 6:12; I John 1:9).
- Prayers for the sick (III John 2)
- Concerning our physical needs (Matthew 6:11)
- Help in facing temptation (Matthew 6:13)
- Any lawful desire (Philippians 4:6)
- Intercessions on behalf of others (I Timothy 2:1; Luke 22:32; John 17:9; James 5:16; Matthew 5:44; Romans 10:1).
Suggestions for Public Prayer
- Remember you are leading the congregation, thus "we pray" is more appropriate than "I pray." In addition, the things we say needs to pertain to the congregation. Some things for which we privately pray, such as things at work or incidents at home, are not fitting for a congregational prayer.
- Prayers should be appropriate for the occasion. Give consideration to the purpose of the prayer. A prayer at the Lord's Supper should give thanks for the memorial of the bread and fruit of the vine. A prayer at the end of the assembly should wrap up our thoughts and dismiss us.
- Remember you are praying to God, not your brethren. Praying is not the time to preach a sermon.
- Speak from your heart in a natural, yet reverent, manner. The purpose of prayer is not to impress others with our eloquence (Matthew 6:5).
- Speak so that all can hear and understand. When leading the assembly, it is best if you come to the front and face the congregation. If the assembly cannot hear or understand you, then they cannot say "amen" to your words (I Corinthians 14:15-16).
- Think about need to pray for ahead of time. Be mindful of specific needs, such as an upcoming class, a gospel meeting, an illness, bereavement, the elders, or the preacher. Nothing says you can't keep a small note in your hand to remind you during your prayer for whom and what you should be praying.
- Be careful of clichés.
- "Guide, guard, and direct us"
- "Go with us to our respective places"
- "Bless those for whom it is our duty to pray"
- "Bring us back at the next appointed time"
- While such phrases are not unscriptural, they are used so frequently people no longer consider what is meant. We need to take care that these phrases don't become vain repetitions (Matthew 6:7).
- When we are new to public prayer, we quickly find nice ways to say things and then fall into a habit of saying the same thing in the same way. As our faith grows, we should strive to express our thoughts in our own way.