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Keeping the “Prayers of the People” a prayer

Intercession is sometimes offered with the pastor or priest asking openly for prayer concerns, attempting to gather them into a prayer on the spot. This practice is often a wonderful experience of community prayer. In my experience, two problems typically accompany this form of prayer:

  1. People can’t hear. This is an issue of hospitality. As presiders we are in control of worship – and controlling the microphone is a crucial way in which we either welcome everyone, or exclude many. In many instances, only those near the person lifting up a prayer concern or thanksgiving will actually hear what is said.
  2. People cease to pray. The “Prayers of the People” becomes “announcement time,” or a time when the congregation is not at prayer but simply sharing concerns, as they might in a small devotional group.

It is possible, however, for the us as leaders to use a form that will permit every prayer concern to be audible by all, and enable the congregation to remain in a state of prayer from start to finish.

Here’s what I suggest:

1. Invite the congregation into prayer, asking for prayers to be offered “on microphone only.”

2. While the congregation remains in prayer, you, as pastor, or someone designated by you, move among the congregation (with a hand-held microphone if possible) and stand at a particular pew or row of chairs and receive both the person’s name and brief prayer of intercession.

3. Before moving on, you repeat in a short sentence form a bidding prayer,  (“Let us pray for”…) followed by a category of prayer (“healing and comfort”) followed by the specific object of the congregation’s intercession not going again into detail (” for Jim Smith’s mother, Mary), followed by an invitation for response in an attitude of prayer (“Lord in Your mercy”)

Full example: Let us pray for healing and comfort, for Jim Smith’s mother Susan. Lord in your Mercy:

4. Followed by a congregational response: “Hear our Prayer.”

5. Then move to the next person with a petition or prayer.

This process can then be concluded with a collect.

The entire process is done in an attitude of prayer. 1) We hear the prayer, 2) we rephrase the kind of prayer offered, 3) we ask for the congregation’s prayer, 4) they respond with prayer.

Again, my hope is that:

  1. Everyone can hear.
  2. Everyone will be at prayer.

Seems simple. But it takes some thought and planning in each of our situations to make it happen.