Elements of Congregational Worship: Prayer

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What-is-the-churchIn one of Paul’s recent blogs he answered the question, “What is the church.” If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to move on over there and check it out! In his post, he narrowed down the actions of the church to three broad categories… upward, inward, and outward. Upward relates to worshipping God, inward relates to nurturing the congregation, and outward relates to evangelism.

In this post (and several upcoming posts) I want to focus on one aspect of the upward part. I want to explore what the Bible says about how we can worship God when gathering as a church. In other words, what does the Bible say about what we should do during a worship service. The answer to this question is very important because it will lay a foundation for how we as a church do church on Sunday morning.

The New Testament gives five main ways in which the congregation is encouraged to worship God, as a congregation. These are: 1) prayer, 2) singing, 3) reading and teaching of Scripture, 4) partaking in the sacraments, and 5) giving.

Today we will look at the first one, prayer:

 1) Prayer

There are a lot of verses I could show that talk about the importance of prayer. We are told to pray instead of being anxious (Phil. 4:6), pray at all times (Eph. 6:18), and pray when we are sick (James 5:13), to name a few. Christians are called to be praying people!

And just as Christians are called to pray individually, they are also called to pray as a body. Here are two examples.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul writes, “Pray without ceasing.” This is a pretty well-known verse (and an easy one to memorize!) but did you know that Paul’s primary audience for this verse is in the congregation? Read verses 12-22 and you will see that Paul is clearly talking to the congregation. Some of these verses, such as the ones on rejoicing (v. 16), praying (v. 17), and giving thanks (v. 18) can be practiced individually, but Paul is first of all speaking to the church as a whole. He is telling the church to never stop praying. It would make sense then that the church is called to pray when together.

A similar request is given in 1 Timothy 2. In 2:1 Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Then in 2:8 Paul repeats his request, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray.” Again, just like in the 1 Thessalonians 5 passage, Paul is speaking to the church, not the individual. There are plenty of other verses that direct the individual to pray, but in these two situations Paul is telling it to the church.

Will our church be a praying church? When we gather together on Sunday mornings will we deliberately spend time praying? I want to challenge us to think of ways that we can integrate more prayer into our service so that we can truly say as a church that we pray “unceasingly.” Will we lift up our brothers and sisters that are sick? Will we pray for the spiritual health of our nation? Will we pray prayers of thanksgiving to God? All of these should be prominent in our church.