There are good and bad ways for leading a congregation in prayer and, like anything else, preparation is the key for doing it well. Use these tips to be ready for your turn in leading a congregation in prayer.
Remember why you’re leading a congregation in prayer. What is congregational prayer for? It’s to seek God’s influence in the service. Often when someone is leading a congregation in prayer they preach instead. This is inappropriate since prayer is, by definition, speaking to God. The congregation came to hear a sermon, but you’re not the one delivering it.
Leading a congregation in prayer is, in effect, leading people into God’s throne room. You are presenting everyone to him for his blessing. So pray, instead of preach, to God.
Write what you will say ahead of time. Leading a congregation in prayer is a form of public speaking. What’s different is instead of speaking to a group of people, you’re publicly addressing God in behalf of them. Good public speakers use notes and leading a congregation in prayer needs similar preparation.
Find out from the pastor what the sermon’s topic is and if any church members are ill.
Write these down. When leading a congregation in prayer don’t be afraid to keep your eyes open to use your notes.
Even when leading a congregation in prayer, speak in your own words. If using King James pronouns like “thee” and “thou” gives a true feeling of sacredness, by all means use them. Otherwise, there’s nothing inherently holy about them. It’s better to speak like you would to a close friend.
Leading a congregation in prayer is in their behalf. I know this may seem silly, but people sometimes bring personal issues into public prayer. Even if your heart is breaking over tragic events, keep those private for now.
Leading a congregation in prayer takes just a minute or two. Jesus talked about the Pharisees with their long, loud prayers; they already have their reward.
Lengthy public prayers tend to meander and often include subjects not relevant to the service. And there are times people are leading a congregation in prayer to appear spiritual.
Leading a congregation in prayer is a corporate plea for God’s influence. That’s the reward you’re seeking and need. Don’t cancel it with a drawn-out prayer.
And finally, say a private prayer before leading a congregation in prayer. Say a silent prayer on your way to the microphone. Or offer a thought prayer at the microphone before leading a congregation in prayer. Something like, “Lord, please help me speak to you” is sufficient.
Generic template for leading a congregation in prayer:
Our Father in Heaven, thank you for another chance to worship and learn together from you.
Some of us can’t be here. (Name them and if it’s not confidential, their reason or illness) Please bless them where they are.
(Sometimes a pastor or elder wishes you to say something specific while leading a congregation in prayer. This is a good place for that.)
We ask for clear minds and hearts. Help us to leave worldly cares out of our thoughts so we can focus on what you have for us. Speak through our preacher, who has prepared a message. (Here you can mention the topic if you like.) Give us strength and wisdom to use the knowledge we know you will grant today.
In Jesus’ name we ask these things from you.
Leading a congregation in prayer doesn’t have to be a scary experience. Use these tips and pray from your heart. Then when you’re leading a congregation in prayer it will bring blessing for your church.