With a text like this, what else would we do during worship but pray? Be as creative as possible but provide plenty of space and time for prayer. There could be prayer stations around the sanctuary and a time for moving about individuals find the prayer style and environment that suits them best. But also plan for corporate prayer. We too often think prayer is an individual thing only. We take the “go into your closet” almost too literally. Certainly, there is time for sincere, individual prayer. But there must also be a sense of community in our prayer life as well. Notice how James tells us to call for the church to come and pray over us, for us, and with us.
Written prayers prayed in unison is one of the ways the church has of engaging in corporate prayer. Inviting worshipers to take the prayer with them, from the bulletin or a prayer card, and to continue praying as a body even when separate emphasizes the corporate nature of prayer—as does a prayer time when many voices are raised in prayer while we are together. It helps to give some instruction before beginning; some might want to commandeer the time. Begin by saying, “Pray a sentence or two at most that lifts up your petition or praise to God.”
Prayer songs or hymns can also be a way of praying together or of supporting one another through prayer. Whoever “sings prays twice” is an adage attributed to many, including St. Augustine. But regardless of the origin, the saying reminds us that there is a close correlation between our prayer life and our hymnody. So, pay attention to the music this week as an invitation to prayer.
What does it mean to declare that this is a house of prayer? Or a praying church? How do we focus our energy and practice on prayer? This would be an emphasis for worship this week and an opportunity to rethink the function of the church as a whole.
Call to Worship
(based on James 5:13-20)
Are any among you suffering?
Then let us pray.
Are any cheerful?
Then let us sing songs of praise.
Are any among you sick?
Then let us turn to each other for God's healing touch.
The prayer of faith will save us
And God will lift us up.
Written by Katherine Hawker. Posted on Liturgies Outside, https://www.liturgyoutside.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Biblical.Jam1JohnRev.pdf.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
We praise you, O God, for though you do as you please, your pleasure is justice with compassion. We worship you, O God, for though you choose your servants as you wish, you elect people who are called to serve all in obedience to you. We are awed by the powers of nature, but assured that there is no force or being that can overpower you. We are most grateful that you make yourself known to us through the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ, our Leader and Friend. Amen.
B. David Hostetter, Prayers for the Seasons of God’s People: Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary Year B (Abingdon, 1999), 187-188.
A General Prayer for the Day
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has rescued us from those who would destroy us. Your power and might are great, and your mercy is poured out on us whom you love. Our help is in your blessed Name, O you who have made heaven and earth.
We have been entrusted with the way of life, for your Word has dwelt among us. But we become so puffed up with our own importance that we ignore the simplest acts of mercy. You have called us to be like salt, adding flavor to life. Yet we lose our sense of mission and cease to be all you have called us to be. Deliver us from judgement and forgive our sin that we may live forever in your presence and sing your praises for eternity.
By the gift of your Spirit, help us to see that we share your task of evangelism with many people from many different places. May our work be done for the common purpose of spreading the gospel of Christ.
We life up before you this day our brothers and sisters who are in distress. By the ministry of the laying-on-of-hands and anointing and prayer, we have confidence that, as your will directs, you will deliver them from evil, preserve them in all goodness, and bring them to everlasting life.
O God, turn our sorrow into gladness and our mourning into a holiday. Hear and answer us, for we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Timothy J. Crouch, OSL, Nancy B. Parks, OSL, Chris E. Visminas, Mark R. Babb, OSL, And Also With You: Worship Resources based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year B, OSL Publications, 1993, 129.
Reflection: James 5:13-20
‘Therefore confess your sins to one another,
and pray for one another, so you may be healed.’
A good friend doesn't let you get away with murder
but will speak for you in your defense
a good friend asks hard questions
but stays with you while you struggle with the answers
a good friend sees you at your worst
but still loves you
a good friend has had plenty of practice
in forgiving you
a good friend has no illusions about you
(knows you're only human)
but still has hopes for you
everyone needs a good friend,
otherwise you'd just go on making the
same dreary old mistakes
God of wisdom, God of justice, God of mercy,
be our friend.
Posted on the Christian Aid website. http://www.christianaid.org.uk. Reposted: https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2012/09/reflection-james-5-13-20.html.