Dear friends,

It surprises me that many churches do not pray in their services. I only get to visit other churches when I am on holidays, so I am working with a small sample size. But often, when I am in a church on my holidays, the only prayer at all is a very brief one prayed by the person giving the sermon.

At Messiah, we encourage “the preacher” to pray before and after the sermon. But more to the point of this blog, virtually every week we have a time of intercession as part of the worship service. Some might say, “Aw, the intercession- a bit rote and impersonal and boring sometimes, isn’t it? Maybe you should cut it out altogether or replace it with something more personal and meaningful.”

Now, I am one of the regular intercessors. But my feelings are not hurt by the comment. It is easy to go through the motions. I know it is also easy to be quite prayerfully engaged in intercessions – but that “those in the seats” do not experience “prayerful engagement”. I also know that one of the alternatives, “emotional engagement”, can be mere human willpower and manipulation. Emotional engagement is not necessarily a sign of spiritual connection with Jesus. So, on one hand, please pray for Messiah, that when we pray together, in common, that the intercessor will call out to God with an honest heart, speaking to Him alone to please Him alone so that we can pray along in an honest way. Please pray that we will pray, and pray well!

But one more thing needs to be said in this blog. Some of the intercession is “boring” on purpose. I do not mean that the prayer is written in boring English. What I mean is that praying in common and in public should stretch us. We need to be reminded of the breadth of what God wants us to pray for.

Left to ourselves, we start to pray for only what interests us. What is in the news and is emotionally gripping; family members and friends that we care about; particular interests in the Christian life. In other words, left to ourselves we have a personal and emotional prayer life – that is spiritually stunted and immature. Common prayer is a weekly attempt to stretch our prayer and expand the horizons of our prayer. Common prayer should remind us of some matters which the Bible tells us to pray for.

As well, by writing the prayers down; and by having a structure that lets you know when the topic is closing and by inviting a congregational response, the time of intercession is attempting to get us to pray along – not merely to listen to a “skilled pray-er” up front pray.