On Pentecost Sunday Pastor Bob Kaylor, our lead pastor, told our congregation about a Korean way of praying in church. At the appropriate time the pastor stands before the congregation and shouts, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” then the whole congregation begins to pray aloud. They are not praying a prayer printed in the bulletin or projected on a screen. Instead, they are each praying individual, personal prayers corporately.
When our prayer time came later in worship that morning, he invited the congregation to get into groups, and share with one another things for which they wanted prayer, and then to pray together. At our 9:45 praise service, where we do something similar during the greeting time, this seemed effective. Conversation and prayer flowed easily as the band played softly. I hope this practice of praying for one another will continue in our congregation without the prompting of the pastors.
In many churches I have attended, the prayer modeling that is done is not helpful. In my home church as a youth, the prayer was always a formal one done by the professionals (as Pastor Kaylor said on Sunday, “I’m a professional but please DO try this at home”). Some of my peers noted how the prayer often had a weather report in it, thanking God for the rain or the sunshine or the changing of seasons. Language was used that was not part of my working vocabulary – I learned the word bereaved through the prayers I heard as a youth. No wonder people think prayer is complicated, and better left to the pastors.
In college I was exposed to the “joys and concerns” before prayer, and used them often in worship services I have led. People raise their hands to share their requests and thanksgivings. Then, during the prayer, I would feel the pressure of trying to remember all of them in the “professional” prayer. I haven’t actually done a survey, but I would guess that approximately 9 out of 10 requests are health related. The other one is usually something that has been on the news. It is no wonder why people believe that prayer is like sitting on Santa’s lap for adults.
We need to continue to be creative, as we were on Sunday, in the ways we model prayer in our churches. There need to be moments of silence that allow our congregation to not just talk at God, but to take the time to listen as well. There need to be times for people to participate in prayer, even if it is just speaking a name or request during a youth-group-like popcorn-style moment in the prayer. We need to find ways to communicate that the “professional” is not praying for, but rather praying with the congregation.
As I shared in a previous post (Everyday worship), our worship leadership is best when it is an extension of our private worship. The same is true of corporate prayer. The prayers we lead are best when they are an extension of our private, Monday through Saturday prayer life. That is the best modeling we can offer.
What creative ways of praying have you found helpful – either in your private life, or in church services? What has been a distraction?