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congregational prayer, 7.23.06

July 31st, 2006 by isaac · 17 Comments

Every week someone leads our congregation in a prayer. I led last week. I thought I’d post the prayer I wrote. It’s based on the lectionary texts for that week. And, as you will notice, it’s a Mennonite church so the peace witness is important.

O Lord, you are the Good Shepherd. Yet we roam in fear like sheep without a shepherd. We seek your gift of deliverance. And, God, that’s why we’re here again. That’s why we come together every week as your church. We ask that you would deliver us from our wandering as we follow our selfish desire, our pride, our lusts, our deceptiveness, our idolatry. Save us from our self-destruction and lead us instead into the paths of your righteousness, of your peace.

We come together so we can taste again the wonders of your grace, another sweet taste of your bread of eternal life. Lord of life, we are hungry. Every week we arrive at this building at 5pm and meet together and seek your grace, another word of promise, of hope. We sing your praises, proclaim the good news of your Son, and enjoy one another’s presence. We do all these things because we confess your presence, O Lord. You are here with us, in us, surrounding us in your loving embrace—your presence with us in and through the presence of our brothers and sisters, as the Holy Spirit binds us together with love, the love of Jesus. We are here, God, this evening so we can celebrate the gift of your salvation, the gift of Jesus Christ, our rock, our savior.

God, as we gather to celebrate your grace, we can’t help but ask that you would pour out your love and peace and justice, your forgiveness and reconciliation, on all the earth. Your Son did not give himself just for us, but he laid down his life for the whole world—for friends and enemies. We pray for the reconciling work of your Son to be made evident in India, in Iraq, in Palestine, in Israel, and in Lebanon. God, as you know, there is so much darkness, so much violence, so much death. But we also know that you, Lord Jesus, are familiar with death. And now, this humble group of your followers join our thoughts in prayer as we ask to see darkness turn to light, to see the glimmer of resurrection when hope looks like a life-less corpse on a cross.

God we ask that you would continue to sustain those good works of justice and peace throughout the world, so that all creation may experience your love, your breath of life. Bless those who feed the poor. Bless those who clothe the naked, those who provide houses and shelters for the homeless, those who provide clean water, and those who plant gardens that proclaim life in the midst of despair. Bless the peacemakers who would rather die as a witness of your love instead of killing an enemy.

God, open our eyes and ears this evening, so that we may learn new words, new way of proclaiming the gospel of your Son, the good news of your kingdom. And God, give us eyes to see and ears to hear the manifold work of your Holy Spirit as we leave this place and return to our daily lives. Water our souls today with your living waters. Satisfy our hunger with your bread of life.

Tags: theology

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Beth Q // Aug 1, 2006 at 8:08 am

    Why do you write our your prayers? Shouldn’t those church prayers be more about listening for what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church? And doesn’t that mean that it should be more spontaneous? Don’t get me wrong, your prayer seems fine. But I can’t help but wonder if it is just too machanical when you read a prayer at church. It should be about talking to God right there with everyone else, and no one would write out a monologue when you are planning on having a conversation.

  • 2 Jason // Aug 1, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Beth, I can’t speak for Isaac, but I do know that I’ve recently come to appreciate written prayers (some of the best compilations I’ve come across are The Book of Common Prayer and The Oxford Book of Prayer). I grew up in the tradition of spontaneous prayer, but have found that written prayers, whether written by myself or others, have a depth and profundity that I rarely approach when I’m just talking off the cuff. Part of that is probably my lack of eloquence when speaking spontaneously, but another part is also that when I spend the time to write something down I am forced to slow down and put some sense of order and beauty to all my jumbled thoughts.

    Of course, none of that is to make an excuse for times when written prayers become a monotonous speech at God instead of the give and take of conversation. But written prayers done well should be an invitation to listen closely for the movement of the Spirit.

  • 3 isaac // Aug 5, 2006 at 4:16 am

    Beth, Thanks for the comment. I can hear where you are coming from: prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit and we should make sure we let the Spirit work through us when we pray. I think that’s what Paul’s trying to say in Romans 8 about how the Spirit gives us moans beyond our words. But the trouble with spontaneous prayers is that they usually all sound the same. I grew up in a pentecostal/charismatic church where spontaneity was held in high esteem. But the funny thing happened, every spontaneous prayer sounded pretty much the same—people always prayed the same sort of thing, nothing changed. My church interpreted that as “the work of the Spirit”—the invisible hand that kept us all on the same page. But what I came to see was that our services slowly shifted from the Bible to visions and words of prophecy. Seldom did the pastor exegete scripture.

    So, this is what I’m trying to say: Christians are “a people of the book,” and therefore we must find ways to hold our lives accountable to that holy book. Church, as I see it, is about learning the constantly fresh words of the Spirit provided through the Bible so we can receive the call of God for our lives. And we need that every week, at least. That’s why we gather as ‘church.’ And corporate prayer is also about opening ourselves to the Spirit so we can be led into the contstantly openning horizon of faithfulness. And the only way we can know if we are praying in the Spirit, not our own spirits or the spirits of this culture, is is we keep our language accountable to Scripture. Christians can’t just say anything we want. Our tongues must also be disciplined. Faithfulness is also about disciplines speech. And that should definitely be the case when someone prays before a congregation—we must be sure we are leading people into the true, life-giving Spirit of God, not some other spirit.

    Writing out a prayer is a way for me to discipline my langauge. I read the lectionary texts and find ways to pray those words I hear. Writing becomes a contemplative practice where I am forced out of my our world, and lose myself in the stange new world of the bible. And then I share that wonderful world with the church when I read my prayer and ask them to join me in this prayer. I think this is a very appropriate way to, as Jason put it, “listen closely for the movement of the Spirit.”

  • 4 Primrose Fox // Jun 27, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Hi, I loved your prayer. I am part of a team that prays the “pastoral prayer” at our church. I have to pray once every 6 weeks. It is hard to keep ones prayers fresh and interesting. I know that what helps me is to pray scripture – but I could be months enjoying the book of Ephesians and I can’t pray that every time. So writing down a prayer helps me to concentrate and be open to what the Holy Spirit wants me to say to my church family each time it is my turn to pray.

    As we listen to other’s pray we learn so much about their relationship with God and I think this is very encouraging. I love prayers that show the beauty of our Father’s heart towards us. Then I just want to praise Him till my heart bursts!


  • 5 isaac // Jul 17, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for checking out the site and for reading my prayer. I’m glad that you also find it helpful to write down prayers. I mean, that’s what the Psalms are anyways. If David did, maybe we can too.

  • 6 Don Marchant // Aug 7, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    I’m all for congregational prayer. I’ve been in mission work for over 25 years. I believe there’s something missing in our missionary efforts. Its God’s people! Congregations are not praying for the 10,000 Unreached Peoples. According to some, that’s 40% of the world population! For any pastor who let’s me, I’ll send weekly emails. Each email gives a few bullet-points about the Unreached People featured for prayer by Global Prayer Digest for the following Sunday. My site pops up about third on Google if you search on: congregational prayer for Unreached Peoples. And no, you don’t have to be a pastor to receive these totally free emails.

  • 7 Don Marchant // Aug 20, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Here’s a fine kettle of fish! Good fish, actually! I left a comment on your blog about congregational prayer for the Unreached Peoples, the 2.4 billion souls who have little or no knowledge of the Savior Jesus. I send bullet-points to pastors so they don’t have to do the research. They take some of my points to their pulpits on Sunday and lead in prayer for the UPs. Well, now you’re googled for this ahead of me! You’re welcome. Probably helps me too, somehow. Blessings!

  • 8 Don Marchant // Aug 23, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    As I see it, both Beth and Isaac have some great things to say about prayer. I’m a charismatic. If I wrote out a prayer and read it, people would probably say I was not relying on the Holy Spirit. But Paul wrote a lot of things, including prayers in Ephesians. I don’t think people read their prayers during a service in New Testament times. My opinion is this, written or not, prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. I’m trying to get pastors to lead their people in prayer for one Unreached People each Sunday. I know God wants them all saved. He gave us the job of getting the gospel to them. After 2000 years, it’s time we asked him to intervene and help us. But we need to do it in significant numbers, to change the face of the earth. Lev.26:8: Five will chase 100, and 100 will chase 10,000.

  • 9 isaac // Sep 5, 2008 at 6:51 am

    Don, thank you for your comments. I also agree with you about the power of prayer to change lives—especially our own. The image that comes to mind whenever I think of prayer is the one in Revelation where the prayers of the saints rise like incense to God, who then gathers them and sends them to the earth like bolts of lighting. Terrifying and beautiful.


  • 10 Don Marchant // Sep 12, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Isaac, thanks for your response. Confession: Since I responded to your blogs I’ve had several hits that originated from this page. At that time, my hits were averaging something like 1.2 hits per day. Now they’re about 14.8!! But very few asking to receive my weekly emails. I’m searching for pastors who have a heart for the 2.4 billion persons who belong to those 10,000 Unreached People groups. They are beyond the present outreach of our mission efforts. I’ve been in missions for 25 years. I’m convinced God is, to some extent, letting us, his children, go along with his less than overwhelming help, for the reason that we haven’t asked for that help. It’s our job to reach them. He gave us that job. He’s not going to interfere unless we ask him. And asking him takes more than a few of us. God effects monumental changes on the earth when a significant number are asking. Example: the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. They cried out to the God of their fathers and he sent Moses with mighty power to change the situation. But I can’t seem to get the attention of pastors. Any advice?

  • 11 Don Marchant // Sep 12, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Oops! I meant to mention: If anyone has advice for me, please respond to this (above) comment and then email me: or visit and click on “Your Options” to see my suggestions on things you might do to help, and then click on “Contact me” to email me from there. Thank you.

  • 12 Don Marchant // Oct 7, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Lord, God, Almighty, Creator of all that is, Majestic One over all the earth, we confess we have come up short in fulfilling your magnificent assignment. After 2000 years, there are yet 10,000 People groups we have not reached. Over two billion of your most wonderful creatures, 40% of our world, have no heard the gospel! You gave us this assignment to involve us in your plan of world evangelization. We have been truly delighted to be working alongside you. We enjoy using your splendid Word to open wide the doors of your kingdom for those whose hearts hunger for relationship with you. But now, in view of our less than spectacular success, we ask you to intervene. We confess we need more of your power in our efforts. Our missionaries are fighting gallantly against the enemy. Now, empower them as never before. Increase their zeal. Triple their anointing. Cause unbelievers to fall at your feet, asking you to save them, asking for your precious gift of eternal life. We imitate you now Father, using the words of your glorious Son Jesus, to call into being a fresh new situation that does not yet exist, even as you called into being the entire universe. Give power to our words, Lord, as we speak in your name: Father, hallowed be your name! Your kingdom, come! Your will for the Unreached Peoples, which is their eternal salvation, be done!

    Oh God, yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. The Unreached Peoples will praise you, forever and ever. They will sing to you most high praises. They will dance before you with indescribable joy. They will worship you with delight beyond measure!
    Glorify your name, O God in them! Amen.

  • 13 kizzie77 // Oct 31, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Hi, Many thanks for a great site – very helpful. On fathers day last year, I was asked to offer the congregational prayer in my church, (I am just a female member counsellor with no pastoral responsibilities). I started off okay but half way through, I went completely dry! I got so nervous and almost panicked. I felt a failure. Now I have been asked to pray again and it’s such a relief to know that it’s okay to write a congregational prayer. I love your prayer and I will be using it as my skeleton frame. Thank you so much.
    As for the pastors not signing up, that ought not to worry you. I believe the 14.8 hits a day you are getting is much more than the pastors singing up! This is God’s own doing and it is good, very good. Remember, it is God’s business you are about. You do your part and leave the rest to Him – He never fails! Blessings, kizzie.

  • 14 Don Marchant // Sep 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Kizzie, thanks for your counsel. Sorry I didn’t discover you responded a year ago to my hearts cry. I was really moved just now, reading your words, a year after you wrote them. Thanks. I agree with you. Blessings.

  • 15 charlotte l Hayes // Mar 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    What a pleasure to know that there are people like myself that really enjoy and know the power of prayer.

  • 16 Don Marchant // Apr 30, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Someone’s been praying! Since I last wrote, I’ve received email addresses for over 2000 pastors and others. Now I send emails on Tuesday nights, asking pastors and others to pray, and lead their people in prayer, on the following Sunday. I don’t know how many are doing it. Would you pray that many more pastors will email me, asking me to send them my weekly emails with info about one Unreached People? Pray that a leader of an entire association of pastors will send me the emails of all his members! Thanks for praying. See my website and click on “Options” to learn how you can be a part of this prayer team, dedicated to reaching the 10,000 Unreached Peoples with the precious gospel of Jesus!

  • 17 Alice L. // Jan 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you. I was searching for some examples of congregational prayer. It is sad when each Sunday who ever is praying, for the most part, repeats the same prayer another person prayed the Sunday before. It seems that prayers have become so repartitioning that if you didn’t know, you would think that the same person was leading the prayer. I enjoyed the comments and your explanations regarding written prayers. I think that more leaders should write their prayers too.