One of the most familiar “group prayer” questions is, “Would you lead us in prayer?” Everyone knows what it means. But if we are going to be most effective in facilitating corporate prayer, we will want to broaden the meaning of this very familiar question. Here is what I wrote in United and Ignited.
I have the privilege of sharing at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon a few times per year on the topic of dynamic corporate prayer. One day as I was concluding 4 hours of “show and tell” on the topic, I glanced at the clock and realized I had just about one minute to sum up all I wanted them to catch.
Here is what I said:
I think I can say nearly everything I want you to walk away with in less than one minute. My hope is that because of our time together today the meaning of the question “Would you lead us in prayer?” has been enlarged. From: “Bill, would you lead us in prayer?” And Bill stands, speaks, we listen, he says amen, and he has led us in prayer. To: “Bill, would you lead us in prayer?” And Bill says, “Sure, I would be happy to lead us in prayer. I have been thinking about Psalm 90:14 (or a host of other verses or topics) which says, ‘Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love…’ Let’s close (or open) our time in prayer today by considering the things about God that deeply satisfy us. I will give you a moment to consider what you would like to say, then I will start, and let’s have about 5 or 6 others of you follow right after me…” Then after Bill pauses for 10-15 seconds, he prays, “Father, Your grace deeply satisfies me.” Then, someone else might say, “Father, the blood of Your Son deeply satisfied You and it deeply satisfies me.” Or “Father, being part of Your Body has satisfied my deep need to belong.” Perhaps others would mention, His peace, His mercy, His joy, or His calling, etc.
The specifics of the illustration should change from setting to setting, but I think you get the picture. Leading a group in prayer can (and in most settings I would say should) include giving many people in the group an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the prayer. It does not have to take any longer than if just one person prayed. Your leadership, your prayer direction, brings the opportunity for the group to pray in the power of unity.
When we ask someone to lead us in worship, we don’t expect a solo, we expect him or her to do that which will help us express our hearts to the Lord. Why should it be different when we ask someone to lead us in prayer? Why not anticipate that the person who leads us in prayer would actually help us all pray rather than just pray on our behalf?