About the Prayers of the People
If you had to make a very practical list of what we do as Christians – not verbose treatises on theological or ecclesial activities, but a list of the ordinary, daily, “bread and butter” components that describe our lives of faith – you would have to place prayer at the top of the list.
It’s true isn’t it? Our relational connection with God is rooted and grounded in our daily prayer life. We pray to know God. We pray to be near to God. Without prayer, we lose our way. Without prayer, our faith loses the potency of living as children of God. Without prayer it is harder to cast off the trappings and accoutrements that compromise our ability to live as salt and light in a bland and dark world. Without prayer it is easy to forget who we are and whose we are. Tertullian, the brilliant theologian from Carthage , saw prayer, not his intellectual grasp of Christianity, as central to his faith. He called prayer the “wall of faith.” Prayer hems us in, preserves us and protects us in Christ.
Prayer has always been vital to the lives of believers. In Luke 11 we read that Jesus’ disciples asked our Lord to teach them how to pray. Implicit in this request is two things. First, prayer is vital to following Jesus. Second, we don’t innately know how to pray. Authenticity and sincerity are essential components of prayer, and our authenticity and mature grow as we really pray. C.S. Lewis expresses that truth when he said “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.” How we pray and what we pray continues our conversion as we engage the living God. In other words, we pray what we believe and we believe what we pray.
If personal prayer is so vital to the spiritual life of Christians, it follows that prayer must be equally life giving and significant for the Church. The Christian cannot fulfill his or her spiritual obligations in solitude. We are called to be with one another on this journey. It is not unusual then that liturgical prayer (in the form of the Prayers of the People) plays an important role in our weekly worship of the Triune God. Historically, going back to the Temple in Jerusalem , the Psalms were corporate praises and prayers that worshippers used to engage God. Then as Christians began to worship together, they composed prayers for the church to be prayed by the people of God. From the time of the early church, through Medieval times and into the Reformation, the people of God have used those crafted prayers so that all believers might pray together in the worship service.
The Prayers of the People enable us to bring corporate conviction, form and order to our prayers. Like the scope of a rifle enables focus and enlargement of the target for a surer shot, our liturgical prayer collects us together to become more effective agents of intercession for our world. In some mysterious way, our prayers agree with the redeeming movement of the Holy Spirit.
As we pray the Prayers of the People we reach a point in the service where God’s Word and our world converge in a deep way. That’s why the prayers are located where they are in the service – after the Scripture readings, the sermon, and the confession of faith in the Creed. The Word of God has been spoken. We have responded in faith. It is therefore appropriate for us to approach God in prayer.
The Prayers of the People enlarge and enliven the scope of our Sunday morning worship beyond the walls of our church and outside the lives of those who are present. They broaden the horizon of our conversation with God, if you will. Each Sunday we pray for several specific elements:
- The Church and its ministry and mission – our own church and the Church at large
- The nations of the world and all in authority in the world
- The welfare of the world
- The concerns of the local community
- Those who suffer and those in any trouble Praises to God for his faithfulness and goodness
- Prayers for the faithfully departed
Come to the Prayers of the People with a heart expectant to intercede and plead with God! Come to do the work of the church! Come with specific requests, names of people, parts of the city or world that are hurting! Come and pray trusting that by so doing the powers and principalities of darkness can be pushed back! Come knowing that your prayers matter and that they will be heard by God!
If we as followers of Jesus Christ fail to intercede for those in the world around us, who will pray for them?
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