Carl Trueman observes that while seminaries/theological colleges struggle to teach preaching well, a more pronounced weakness is training in what he calls ‘pulpit prayer’, the prayers said by the pastor while leading worship.
Yet there is another thing that is not done well at seminary, something which is rarely noticed and which is consequently something of a dying art: pulpit prayer. (We’d call it ‘lectern prayer’, or ‘platform prayer’.)
In fact, pulpit prayer should be a vital part of the worship service. It is at those moments that the pastor has the task of leading the people into the very presence of God. This is an awe inspiring task, not to be undertaken lightly. Such leading should be clear, suffused with biblical allusions and shaped by biblical thought patterns. It should be built on the foundation of a solid grasp of the mediation of Christ and should reflect that in its content.
Often Protestants concentrate so much on the sermon or the singing as the contact point between God and the congregation that we forget the importance of prayer. Yet corporate prayer is surely a means of grace (Shorter Catechism 88) and it thus requires that those leading worship pay as much attention to what they say in their prayers as they do to their sermons. The congregation should come away from the service believing that they have met with a holy and gracious God; and public prayer is a key element of that.
To listen to a lot of public prayer in churches is too often like listening in to a private quiet time — and that is not meant as a compliment. The erosion of the boundary between public and private and the relentless march of the aesthetics of casualness have taken their toll here. It seems that unless somebody prays in public precisely as we think they might do in private, we all fear that this might be a form of affectation which prevents the prayer from being `authentic’ — whatever that might mean. Yet often there are people in the congregation on Sunday who have come from a week of pain, worry and confusion; they may be spiritually shattered; they might barely be able to string two words of a prayer together; and at this moment a good pastor can through a well-thought out and carefully expressed prayer draw their eyes heavenwards, lead them to the throne of grace and give them the words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and intercession which they cannot find for themselves.
Read the whole post at Reformation 21.
Can’t say I remember the subject being addressed during my training (apart from the encouragement of the pastors who oversaw me during this time).
As a church that affirms all the mandated elements of worship are means of grace the sermon took almost exclusive precedence.
But this is an unbalanced view, which if continued will foster an unbalanced denomination.
Terry Johnson and Ligon Duncan have a helpful chapter on the subject in the book Give Praise To God.
In addition to incorporating Scripture into our worship at mgpc we seek to have substantial prayer, by pastor and elders.
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