I make it a goal to be at home with my family for dinner as many nights as possible. Many times this includes other guests around the dinner table, but nonetheless, my wife and two daughters cherish this time together.
Like most families that treasure Christ, we spend a few moment praying before eating and catching up with one another. Both my daughters now like to pray for the meal as well. Granted my youngest typically bows her head and mumbles something not entirely audible, then pops back up and says, “Daddy, haws yer dey?” I’m guessing she’s picked this up as I typically ask my wife at dinner, “How’s your day been?”
My older daughter, who is now 5, on the other hand, prays using coherent words and phrases. And I’ve noticed something – just like younger daughter is picking up phrases to mimic, so is my older daughter; her language in prayer is eerily similar to the language that I use in prayer.
How Did You Learn to Pray?
I believe that’s true for most of us. Think back to how you learned to pray; you probably did not learn by attending an insightful class or from reading a well-written book or by listening to a captivating sermon on the subject. As the saying goes, prayer is more caught that taught. Thus when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he did not launch into a lengthy diatribe, but started praying (Luke 11:1-4).
So that leads me to my question: If the people in your church only learned how to pray from the prayers they heard in your Sunday services, how robust would their prayer lives be?
Praying Vertically, Teaching Horizontally
Our prayers on Sunday not only rise to the throne of God, but they ring in the ears of those who we shepherd; and when that happens men and women, boys and girls are learning how to pray. And if that’s the case, we should think about when we pray and how we pray and what we pray for during our gatherings together.
One of the joys of my week is taking time to pray about prayer. As I pray I begin to write out a couple prayers for that upcoming Sunday service; this typically includes a “call to worship” prayer that comes at the front end of our gathering, and then a lengthy “Pastoral” prayer that happens at some point during our gathering.
It is during the “Pastoral” prayer that we spend a significant amount of time praying for the hallowing of God’s name, confessing our sin, pleading for the salvation of the lost, and laying out specific requests before God. We truly believe, on the basis of the work of Christ alone, God hears these prayers and in his sovereign kindness will answer them to fulfill his purposes.
How Would Your Church Pray?
And we also fully realize that we are teaching all those gathered how and what to pray. So if your people followed your lead and prayed as you pray corporately:
- Would they be pleading for the gospel to reach unreached peoples?
- Would they be praying for other churches in your city to be strengthened?
- Would they be praying for concrete needs of specific members?
- Would they be confessing and repenting of specific sin?
- Would they be praying for the government?
- Would they be thanking God for the grace of the gospel?
- Would they be praying for people to come to faith in Jesus?
- Would they be praising God for his all-sufficiency?
- Would they be praying for the unity and humility of the church body?
May our churches be a place where the Christ is exalted not only through faithfully proclamation, but also in fervent prayer. After all, we are called “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”