I’ve just begun an online workshop on Public Prayer towards achieving revised certification requirements for the designation of Lay Speaker within the realm of Lay Servant Ministries within our Church Conference.
As such, I’m already enjoying the primary text for the course:
Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
To be honest, I never gave much thought regarding how public prayer differed from personal prayer, except for the obvious component that it was no longer my own personal time with God – it was a corporate time and should be addressed in kind. Perhaps, when I stepped forth to lift up a prayer within a group, I even subconsciously knew much of the protocol that was required. However, it’s always a great refresher to have structure laid out where you can see it, dissect its parts, contemplate why we do things a certain way (or maybe why we should consider changing those ways) – capturing a new angle through the study of God’s Word and forming our relationships (both with God and others) through a varied lens and in a new light.
Here’s a very important reminder from the Introduction of the text that I believe serves the Public Intercessor well:
- Because you are being asked to send up prayers on behalf of an entire gathering or some group (large or small), even though the prayers may contain personal elements, your statements must be more generalized than your own personal prayers. Because these prayers are representing all who are present, you must provide a setting where all can agree in order to be able to authentically say Amen at the end with their own personal measure of integrity.
Of course, all that being said, I believe it’s also important to acknowledge that when any individual is selected (or volunteers) to bring forth prayer on behalf of a larger group, it should be expected that the person is going to bring his or her own personal touch, so to speak. You should allow yourself permission to interject your personality, your own inflections, so the prayer is genuine and doesn’t seem overly constrained or as though it isn’t from your own heart.
As I begin this study, I’ve been asked to meditate and write a prayer of praise to God – one void of any requests. (Interesting that the author understands that human nature compels us to slide those in…) I was meditating on the Psalms prior to this, thinking on the themes of thanksgiving and adoration.
Here’s what passed through my mind (& my fingertips):
I* know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of life’s battles,
Above All of my* daily problems & concerns,
Above All of my petitions or moans, my groans, my complaints,
Above All of my seeming defeats.
I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of the daily delights I either acknowledge or overlook,
Above All of the times I call out Your Name – either in glorious praise or unfortunate defamation,
Above All of the ways I interact with others – both positively & negatively,
Above All of the matters that You intricately know within my heart.
I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of my outright confessions,
Above All of my hidden secrets,
Above All of my shortcomings, my comings, my goings,
Above All of these things that ought to be Yours.
I know You are OVER ALL –
Over All of creation,
Over All situations,
Over All that comes before me*,
Over All that makes up each of our personal beings.
I Praise You, Lord GOD
for taking me under Your wing,
for breathing into me Your breath of life,
for wanting me to abide in Your presence,
for All I understand You to be…
And much more so for All in You I can’t comprehend.
You are Awesome.
You are Amazing.
You are GOD.
*Note that our or we or us could have been substituted for my or I or me in the above stanzas; but whether personally or corporately received, I wanted to assure this was a very personalized prayer (much like we perceive when we read the Psalms – understanding an individual within the Psalter was speaking/singing to God in each one, but that we, too, might join in.)
As I close today, I’m reminded of something powerful that one of my older sisters once reminded me in my younger years about the power of prayer in a difficult relational circumstance:
“Jody,” she said, “God will not change people. But God will change circumstances.”
(What I didn’t yet understand was that those circumstances might have actually been mine to create a change in me! ha!)
For me, that’s always been a worthy reminder of how I should never try to use prayer to manipulate people. I think it’s an especially important reminder in the corporate setting, where a prayer leader should not try to interject his or her own will onto a situation to manipulate those in attendance (or…God!). God is simply far too great for that.
I pray that all is well with each of you.