Why do we pray during our services?
- The Bible encourages it: Matthew 6:9-13; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Romans 8:26-27
- To lead the congregation in prayer for other people and situations
- To pray for God’s Kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done and for our ‘daily bread’ (Matthew 6:9-13)
- To pray for everyone, especially those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness – so that all people will be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
- To model intercessory prayer, so that what we do in our services becomes part of our everyday lives. However, it is not quite the same as saying our private prayers on our own: because we are called to intercede for others to God.
When we lead the intercessions at the main service, we are praying on behalf of God's people gathered in our church. This affects the way in which we address God as we pray.
Preparation and Feedback
- remember that in intercessions, you are addressing God. You may find it helpful to begin each prayer section with a direct call to Him such as: Creator God/Loving God/Healing God/Forgiving God/Compassionate God...but not Dear God - it is not a letter!
- practice it and time yourself beforehand: it should be no more than 3 or 4 minutes when read slowly, or 400-500 words in total.
- move to be in place at the ambo when people stand to say the creed. Start praying as soon as the Vicar has said 'let us pray for the church and for the world and let us thank God for his goodness'. Usually everyone is seated/kneeling by then. We want to avoid long pauses when nothing is happening in worship; but do feel free to keep silence in the prayers. Silence always seems much longer to those who lead it, so time it on your watch. 15-30 seconds of silence is a good length of time.
- spend time praying and thinking about what to put in: ask the Vicar what the theme is. Occasionally, it might be right to major on one country or on one situation, or on the particular day of the Christian year. Be extremely careful when praying about subjects which may be sensitive to members of the congregation, such as divorce, etc.
- look at the readings: they will be printed in the Newsletter but if you wish to prepare in advance you can find the readings here.
- think about the nature of the service: e.g. is it Parish Communion, All Age or a special service?
- keep the language simple and clear, and the prayers short and easy to concentrate on. Any prayers you choose/write should be no longer than the average 'collect' length, possibly less, you are after all praying in several sections
- pray for those mentioned on our service sheet
- include thanksgiving in your prayers
- ask for feedback after the service from the person leading the service, friends and members of the congregation
- stand miles away from the microphone. The congregation would love to hear your prayers and some of our community rely on the ‘hearing loop’ system to do this. If you’d like to practice with the microphone before the service please do.
- go on too long - please no more than 3-4 minutes when read slowly (see above)
- mention the surnames of the sick or the recently died
- forget to include the full names of those whose anniversary of passing is in this week: some people may attend church only once a year to hear a name read out.
- lead people in confession or meditation
- tell God what is what
- tell people what God thinks or what you think (about the latest hot topic!).
- preach at people, or express your own personal viewpoint (e.g. we pray that the Liberal Party will win the next general election!)
- pray ‘spur of the moment’ prayers, unless you are sure it is appropriate. Usually they ramble and waffle.
- teach during prayers : prayers are from the people to God, not vice-versa.
- put on a ‘prayerful voice’: yours is wonderful the way God made it.
- indulge your own personal style of praying - use a style of language with which you are comfortable but avoid being over-descriptive or detailed.
Who or what do we pray for?
Prayers of Intercession usually come under five headings and although we need not be bound rigidly to these, we should try to include the various categories.
- The Church (the people of God): world wide and local. (The Diocesan prayer list can be found in the Intercessions folder). Please do pray for us as a church community to grow in number and depth and for all our outreach activities (e.g Alpha (please pray before it starts as well as each week it is running), Messy Church, the Drop-In Cafe). There may also be other issues we are supporting or dealing with as a Christian community: new team members, study groups, upcoming baptisms and confirmations, Holiday clubs, etc. Use the notice sheet and make sure you are on the email list to receive the newsletter and Ministry Matters so you can look at what’s on in the coming weeks.
- Creation, human society, the sovereign and those in authority. Perhaps some world-wide concern from the latest news (but do not present a news bulletin!). Warning: Try not to be too personal: if there is something personal, make it general.
- The local community and our worldwide neighbours and family. What has touched the community? Use the specific to pray out to the general. (e.g. A child killed in a road accident: “We pray for the family – that in their sorrow they will know comfort of friends, hope, strength and peace. We pray for other families who have lost children”). Ask – what is it (if anything) that people will have on their minds as they come to church (e.g. School or University exams)
- Those who suffer: again, something you may have heard in the news, and the ill, anxious and those who care for them. Please always use the prayer folder to pray for the sick as it may have been updated since the newsletter went out (first names only). Consider also praying ‘generically’ and allowing silent space for people to name individuals they know who are in trouble in that way.
- Those who have died recently (again, first names only taken from the folder) and those who are grieving their loss, and the communion of saints including the year's mind (that is, those who died in previous years who are being remembered).
- What is the bible passage about? Does it give any hints? Is there a theme or example that you can relate to? (Warning: Do not preach another sermon!).
- You may wish to use the London Diocesan Cycle of prayer that has suggested topics for prayer for churches in the diocese and dioceses around the world.
Planning for Normal Parish Communion
- use the response in the service book for that time of year (e.g. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer) OR: repeat the response right away at the beginning, so that people know what it is they are being asked to say e.g. Prayer leader: "To the bidding: Lord of Life and Love - please respond - Hear our prayer. Lord of Life and Love..." Congregation: "Hear our prayer". It is good to recall times when we have had to remember long and complicated responses when others have led the intercessions - it is a total distraction and worry, in case we can't remember them!
- keep the response short and simple and use the standard ending in the book.
You are welcome to use set prayers from the service book, prayers you write yourself for the occasion, or published prayers from other books. We have three different styles of intercession books available to borrow for the week before you lead-these are particularly helpful because they are linked to the readings for each Sunday.
There are different styles of intercessions, and each may have a use on a different occasion. During Penitential seasons in the Church's year (Advent or Lent), you may like to use a Litany: Short biddings, silence (optional) ending with greeting and response.
- Lectionary - available from the notice sheet
- Leading Intercessions: hard-backed book linked to readings (please leave in Lady Chapel-do not take away)
- David Adams books, linked to readings
- Clouds and Glory (Year A)
- Traces of Glory (Year B)
- Glimpses of Glory (Year C)
- Susan Sayers books linked to readings - Three year cycle in separate books.