One of the great joys of the pastor is that of leading the church to God’s throne in prayer. I have observed, however, that the “pastoral prayer” is less common in our churches than it used be, or than I had assumed it was. There are many reasons for the pastor to lead the church in prayer as she gathers to worship God. Consider these seven reasons:
Prayer is one of the two most important components of worship (the exposition of Scripture being the other). Leading the church to talk to God in prayer is vital to spiritual leadership.
The church learns what is on the pastor’s heart as he prays. Are the lost in the community on his heart? Community leaders and servants? Missionaries? The persecuted and suffering? What and whom we pray for helps others understand what we value. It also educates the church on what the pastor deems most important, and thus, about which we must be talking to God.
Children and new believers learn how to pray, and what to pray for, by listening to prayer that comes from their pastor’s heart.
Sunday guests, especially the lost, expect that when they attend a church worship service that they will be led to meet with God. They come needing to meet with God, as we all do. Prayer is a spiritual activity they expect to experience in the church, and they need to experience it, in a deep and meaningful way.
Congregational prayer should be planned and prayed about in advance and the pastor is the best to do this. The pastor’s focus on preparing for the weekly worship experience is unsurpassed and thus he is best positioned to pray for the people and matters than need to be brought to the Lord that week.
What the church prays for reveals the heart and priority of the church.
There is no greater privilege than to lead the church to the throne of God in prayer and the pastor should covet this opportunity.
One thing I want to make clear is that others in the church should be called upon to lead in public prayer. I am not suggesting that only the senior pastor should lead in prayer. Nor am I suggesting that the pastor is always the greatest prayer warrior in the church. Thankfully, many churches have godly women and men who spend a great deal of time talking to God each day. In one church I served there was a teenage boy, though young in his faith, taught us important lessons on how to pray. He didn’t know “church vocabulary.” He talked to God in a simple, sincere way, and it was refreshing to hear him as he led us to God in prayer.
You might add to the list I am suggesting, or change it in some way. That is perfectly fine, of course. But I do hope that each of us will give careful thought to the prayer ministry of our church, including our time spent in public prayer on Sunday morning. Sad to say, many churches spend less than one minute in prayer on Sunday morning, and often this minute sounds the same each week and addresses nothing outside the walls of the church building. It doesn’t have to be this way. We should plan and prepare to pray, just as we plan and prepare to preach and sing.