Arnold on an altar

Leading prayers at church, is often a core role in the leading of our services. Personally, I feel that the church interceding for the needs of the world together is a really important and powerful element of church services and shouldn’t be easily removed from a service plan. They don’t need to be formal, or long, or wordy. But we should place prayer as an essential and central part of our community life.

If you want some more information about intercessory prayer (which is the type of prayers we are praying when we lead prayers at church), I have recently shared blog posts about What is Intercessory Prayer? and 4 tips for praying for other people so do check those out!

So, here are my tips for leading prayers at church services

Write them down

It can be tempting to think we can just wing our prayers. Of course, we’ll remember it all, of course we’ll be able to come up with what we want to say, as we say it. We do it when we pray alone don’t we? We do it in prayer meetings don’t we?

But writing down our prayers ahead of time, planning them out, will enable us to ensure we have covered everything we wanted to pray for, as well as ensuring that our prayers flow naturally without ‘um’s and repeating ourselves. Taking the time to prepare our prayers ahead of time also shows that we are treating our role as intercessor with respect and putting in the effort this role deserves.

Check the news

Keeping up with what is happening locally, nationally and internationally should be an important part of planning our prayers. Looking at the situations that our congregations are praying for, bringing to their attention situations that we need to be praying for.

I would also recommend checking the news earlier in the day that you are leading prayers, to ensure that your prayers are timely, that your prayers are relevant at the time you are leading them, and to ensure that you have not missed anything significant that has happened.

Use your own style of prayer

It can be tempting to write, and speak, our prayers in a style that we deem to be “more prayerful” somehow. Whether it’s using more “spiritual” language, or using a certain voice, I would encourage you not to fall into this trap.

Use your normal voice, speak in language that you would use in your own prayers and your day-to-day conversations. By praying in your own style, you are helping to demonstrate to newer Christians in your congregation that there is not only 1 way to pray, or that you have to pray in a certain way. Different people pray in different ways and it is good for this to be represented in the people leading prayers at church.

Be sensitive to serious issues

Sometimes the situations in the world will lead us to pray about serious, but very personal issues. We can very rarely be sure that we know who in our congregation has been touched by these issues. Whether it is abuse, trafficking, divorce, racism, suicide, abortion, sexual crimes, infertility or a vast array of other issues, we shouldn’t let this stop us from praying over these situations (because they certainly do need our prayers). However, we should be sensitive in the language that we use, and any judgement we (even unconsciously) pass. My recommendations would be to keep our prayers simple, rooted in Biblical truth, and not to go into unnecessary details that could cause pain to members of our congregation. We can always bring a situation before God in prayer and ask for his will to be done without launching into all of the details.

Don’t make assumptions

It can often be easy to assume that we know the views of everyone in our congregations. Or to assume that they share our views. I have seen this a number of times regarding political situations, when someone has assumed that because we are all Christians, we must all share the same political views. But we know that God is far bigger than politics, he isn’t on one side or the other, and we can be Christians with different political views so this is a dangerous assumption to make, can make people feel very uncomfortable and like they do not belong within the church family.

We should also bear this in mind when praying over other situations. Christians can have different views on a whole variety of topics, and therefore I would always recommend that we avoid taking sides or sharing our own views wherever possible. Remember, you are interceding on behalf of the whole congregation, not just those who share your views.

Remember you are not preaching

Whilst you may like to use the Bible reading for the service in order to guide your prayers, or set a theme for your prayers, we should also remember that our role is to intercede on behalf of the congregation. To pray for their needs, and for the needs of the world. It is not our role to unpack the reading, to draw conclusions, to be teaching the congregation, or telling them what they should take away from the reading. That is the role of the preacher. I have heard many an intercessions turn into a mini preach, and it simply isn’t helpful. It can be confusing, it takes away from the message the preacher has shared, or even contradict the preacher’s message.

Do you take part in leading prayers at church? What tips do you have to share?

To find out more on this topic & some fun and creative ways to lead prayers at church, check out this video on our YouTube channel:

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