Methods of Praying in Public Worship
by Howard Vanderwell and Norma de Waal Malefyt
Just as the types of prayers will include a great deal of variety, so should the methods in which we pray represent a variety. Perhaps if we suggest an admittedly incomplete listing of some different methods, it will stimulate your ideas, discussions, and planning.
1. Extemporaneous prayer by a pastor or worship leader. This prayer is not written out and is presented conversationally. This requires careful forethought by the leader so that the prayer meaningfully represents the concerns that need to be included. The leader must be very conscious that he/she is serving as the voice of the entire congregation and must formulate the thoughts of the prayer accordingly.
2. Formulary prayer of a historic nature. This prayer is printed and read, either by a leader or by the congregation in unison. It has been selected from historic worship literature and is often a time-honored prayer. Such as prayer enables the worshipers to sense their unity with worshipers of another generation and speaks about the oneness of the church across the generations.
3. Written prayer by a local leader. Many members of each congregation are gifted with ideas and words that enable them to write very meaningful prayers. Some are adults and some are children and youth. Each can contribute from their own experiences and age level. They lead the congregation by reading the prayer they have previously written.
4. Unison prayers. When written prayers are printed in the bulletin or worship sheet, all worshipers are able to merge their voices together and pray in unison. Those who write these prayers must be careful that the phrases are relatively short, readable, and of the kind that all worshipers can take on their own lips. It's a beautiful sound for all to pray together in unison.
5. Open spontaneous prayer by the worshipers. In some congregations, or at some occasions, all members of the worshiping congregation are invited to verbalize their prayer as they desire. Some speak from their pew. In other churches an open microphone is provided. At other times small groups (a "concert of prayer") are formed to pray together. On other occasions, worshipers are invited to speak out the name of a person, concern, or joy that they would like to lift up without the need to turn it into a complete sentence.
6. Responsive prayers. A responsive prayer has a rhythm to it. The leader and the congregation both participate. In some instances the leader will pray about some concern and conclude this section with a phrase such as "Lord, in your mercy," and the congregation knows to respond with "hear our prayer." This can be done multiple times within a prayer. The same pattern can be experienced with sung responses.
7. Repetitive prayers. Sometimes our praying becomes a time also for teaching others, particularly children, how to pray. We've found it helpful to include a form of repetitive prayer in conjunction with the children's message in the worship service. We call them "Simon Sez Prayers." The pastor speaks a brief statement and the children repeat it. This continues for the entire prayer. Both praying and modeling take place.
8. Bidding prayers. In this case the worship leader "bids" the worshipers to pray for a certain subject and then gives them silent time to privately pray for that subject, followed by his/her "bidding" them to pray for another subject. This continues until a variety of subjects have been lifted up in private prayers during the times of silence. The prayer leader closes the prayer.