Recovering the Pastoral Prayer
While private prayer is a necessity in the Christian life for sanctification, there is another avenue of prayer that God has given to help Christians. Jesus specifically spoke of His Father’s house as a house of prayer. One of the greatest tragedies in American Christianity is the death of the pastoral prayer—prayer by the minister on behalf of the people during Lord’s Day worship. For hundreds of years, Protestant churches made corporate prayer an essential element of worship. Today, this prayer has been replaced with more time devoted to music. Little attention is given in corporate worship to prayer.
There is something spiritually beneficial for God’s people when they gather for corporate worship that is not acquired anywhere else. The Lord has promised to meet with His people in a special way. This is why prayer is an important element in corporate worship. Just as personal Bible reading does not replace receiving the means of grace in the preached Word of God, personal prayer does not replace the blessing of corporate Sunday prayer. When the minister prays, he is speaking on behalf of the people as an ambassador of Christ. With one voice, the people’s hearts are united together as their prayers ascend to the throne room of God.
I find the pastoral prayer to be a great blessing. If Ryle is correct that few pray in daily life, think of the help God gives to us when we gather together for prayer. In public worship, we quiet ourselves from the busyness of life and join our hearts in prayer as we are led by God’s appointed servant. The pastor leads us in proper praise, in confession of sin, in the advancement of God’s kingdom, in thanksgiving for God’s good gifts, and in the specific needs of the church. God is ready to hear the prayers of His people through His servant. Corporate prayer is one of the most edifying blessings of worship. If our churches are to have greater effectiveness in the gospel ministry, there will be a place of prominence given to the pastoral prayer.
Prayer is one of the greatest of privileges God has given to believers in Christ Jesus. Prayer is a means for you to enjoy your God as you were created to do. Maybe we don’t pray as we should because we have not learned to enjoy God in prayer as we should. Talk with your God; He desires for you to enjoy this communion. “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The Lord listens to your prayers more certainly than you desire the thing you pray for (HC 129). What a gracious God who has offered Himself to you in the gospel of His Son. Whatever your praise, whatever your burden, take it to the Lord in prayer and wait on Him, for He is the Lord our God who accepts our prayer (Ps. 6:9).