This house shall be a house of prayer. That isn’t the text for this week. But it is a sentiment behind the thrust of Romans 8:26-39. We are about prayer this week: prayer that transforms, prayer that equips and enables, prayer that overcomes, prayer that conquers. Worship this week should be centered around prayer.
Some might argue that it is always centered around prayer. Perhaps this is true. But often we don’t realize how prayer affects and transforms the worship that we do. Here is where we need to remind ourselves that praise singing, for example, is prayer to God. It isn’t really about making ourselves feel good (although it can do that). It isn’t really about bringing the community together by engaging in shared activities (although is certainly does that). Praise singing is really about prayer, about praying prayers of praise to the one who created us, the one who redeemed us, the one who sustains us. Let prayer be the center of worship today.
That might mean taking a moment to remind folks what we’re about when we worship. It might mean dwelling in the moment a little bit longer and taking a higher look at what we’re doing. Stop the proceedings for a moment and draw the congregation’s attention to what is happening and dwell in the silences from time to time. Silence, which is in short supply in our society and much of our worship, can be a time when we can draw near to the living Presence of God. So, how do we create spaces for people to experience silence in the midst of our busy and sometimes overfull worship services?
Maybe this summer day is a day for slowing down. Sing (if we are back to singing together) something more meditative, something that allows folks space to think as they sing, to enter into the prayer moment.
There might be some who might be fine with silence but have trouble with stillness. So, prayer stations would help them fill the silence with movement. Invite them to light a candle, post a thought, gather with a friend and pray together.
It would be good to extend the prayer spaces beyond the sanctuary too, so that as they enter and as they leave, the congregation is invited to be in a spirit of prayer. Let the fellowship time be one of praying together, of sharing concerns and joy and then give a ritual (“We lift this up to the Lord”, “Hear our prayer”) as an option for how people can converse together with God as a part of the conversation. Let the prayer wall not just be behind the sanctuary doors, but in the common areas, even outside, if that is feasible. Let others see and then add to the prayers of the community of faith. How do we advertise ourselves as a “house of prayer” for all God’s people?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.