Arnold at a zoom service

A while back, I made a video about how to lead intercessions, how to lead prayers in church services. In this video I shared some tips to help you lead prayers, as well as a couple of ideas for different creative ways to lead prayers. If you would like to check out that video, you can it here!

However, back then I didn’t want to get into too much detail about how to lead prayers for online church because I wanted my video to stay relevant and thought that we would be back to doing church in person so no one would care about online church in like 3-4 months… oh how wrong I was. Many, many, many months later here we are, still worshipping together online.

So, as online church is still hanging around (and may hang around for a good while longer, even when some people are able to return to in-person services), I thought it would be good to talk more about how we can lead prayers for online church – and how to do this well!

How to lead prayers for online church

Think about the format

There are lots of different ways that people are doing online church services, and these do have a significant impact upon how you would lead prayers as they work in different ways. Here are a few of the most common formats that I’ve seen churches use:

Pre-recorded Service (filmed in advance, then shared on YouTube, Facebook, or DVD)

For this type of service, your prayers will need to be recorded in advance and edited into the service. You can be very creative with this, although you can’t interact/receive live feedback from the congregation.

Zoom Services

In these services, you can see the rest of the congregation, interact with other people live and get them involved. However, you are slightly more limited by the device you are using to join the Zoom call, particularly if you want other people to see a prop or other visual aspect of your prayers.

Live streaming (where the service is being led live, and other people are able to watch along at home)

Live stream services allow you to lead prayers live, however there is often little opportunity for interaction/involvement of the congregation. You may also be limited by the quality of the equipment you are using which may affect how much the congregation can see and hear.

Make the most of visuals!

One of the best things about online services, is the flexibility it gives us to be creative with our prayers. You don’t have to be in one specific place, particularly if you are pre-recording your prayers you can be wherever you want: indoors, outdoors, moving around. How could you make the most of this flexibility? What visual elements could you incorporate into your prayers? Are there photos or a video, that the congregation could focus upon as you pray? Could you use a prop or item to illustrate a point you are making? For example, at a recent zoom service where we had been exploring the story of Jesus turning water into wine, I used a large bottle of water, and slowly added apple and blackcurrant squash each time we prayed for something different – representing the power of prayer to transform us, our community, and the world.

How can you interact with the congregation?

If you’ve read many of my blog posts before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of creative prayer ideas and interactive prayer ideas (you can find a ton of my favourite ideas here) and this includes when leading prayers for online church. Just because we’re not physically together, doesn’t mean we can’t all join in with an activity as we pray. This could be anything from joining in the actions, looking for things around their own house, or getting congregation members to contribute their own prayer requests. This works really well on Zoom, but even if your prayers are pre-recorded or livestreamed there is often a way for people to interact – for example, on YouTube when a video is premiered, there is a live chat function where people could write their responses.

Be aware of your surroundings

When we’re in church, we don’t really have to think about our surroundings – as they’re always the same! But this is something we should consider when we’re in our own homes. Think about what’s behind you, maybe move your drying laundry, washing up pile etc out of view. Think about noise – try and limit any background noise as much as possible as the congregation will hear. This may be your washing machine, your housemates having an argument in the next room, bin lorries outside your window, and many more possibilities… If you are leading prayers live, try and find a quiet space (although I’m sure people will be forgiving if the unexpected happens!). If you are pre-recording, pick a time of day with very little outside noise, and don’t forget – if a car does happen to honk its horn right outside your window, you can always re-record!

Try a few of our favourite ideas:

Over the past year, we have had the opportunity to try out a fair few different ways of leading prayers for online church and want to share them with you.

We’re going on a bear hunt prayers

Why not use the story “we’re going on a bear hunt” to take the congregation on a journey through your prayers? This was an idea we actually first tried in person, but I think this could easily be adapted to be used online. I loved this idea so much that I made a whole video about it, including a demonstration of leading prayers this way. Check out the video here:

I-Spy Prayers

As a fun way to get the whole congregation involved in your prayers, why not use the things they probably have around them? Split your prayers into sections, and for each section think of something they probably have in their house/the room they are watching the service in: something blue, a drink/cup, a plant, a light etc. Get them to spot that thing in their room (you could make this a competition for families), and then focus upon it as you pray. If using this prayer idea, do consider whether anyone in your congregation is blind or partially sighted, and how they can engage.

Fetch Prayers

This idea is similar to the i-spy prayers, but a little more active! Instead of just getting the congregation to spot something, why not get them to go and find something? Again, this can definitely be made into a competition to see who can be the quickest. If using this prayer idea, do consider those in your congregation who are less mobile – perhaps use this in conjunction with i-spy prayers for people to engage however they wish.

BSL Prayers

Action prayers are a great way to lead prayers in an interactive manner, so why not help your congregation to learn some British Sign Language and use signs to lead prayers? Do some research, and choose signs that are relevant to different sections of your prayers, then teach these signs to the congregation and get them to copy the signs as they pray. Please make sure you use the correct BSL signs (or equivalent in your country), and don’t make up your own signs. Also, be sure to explain the signs with words as you do them for anyone who is visually impaired or accessing your service in audio only.

What other ideas do you have for fun ways to lead prayers for online church? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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