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Resources for corporate prayer and confession

Once every 4 weeks or so I lead either the 9.30am or 6.30pm service. The songs are determined in advance, but the rest of the service structure – what happens and when, is up to the service leader.

When I led a youth group I was always encouraged to connect the prayers, the games, the activities – everything that happened on the night – to the Bible talk. These ‘elements' had the capacity to either take away from, or reinforce the Bible passage that was being studied that night. I've tried to take that approach with me into leading the services at church, and found it's a (perhaps not surprisingly) time-consuming task. It's also a wonderful privilege.

Last Sunday night I led the the service and the theme for the sermon was ‘confession' (the current sermon series is based on the ACTS prayer acronym – Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication). I thought I'd share with you two resources I discovered and used on Sunday.

  1. The Valley of Vision is a book of Puritan prayers. Tim Challies (a Canadian blogger) has made a number of the prayers from this book available on his blog. I used the Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving (changing references from ‘I' to ‘We' and so on) as an opening prayer at the start of the service, and Regeneration: A Prayer following a time of worship in song. I was going to use The Dark Guest but thought it was a bit heavy to follow-on from the corporate confession.
  2. Following the sermon I led the congregation in a time of corporate confession of sin. The Prayer Book provides some well-known corporate confessions, but we have used these many times as church and I feared that our familiarity with them might dull their effect. I've found that the more familiar they are to me, the easier they are to say without thinking about what I'm actually saying. I discovered the Reformation Theology website that provides a large number of confesssions that can be used privately or corporately.

There's lots of good reasons to make use of these prayers and confessions, but one of the things I love is the carefully crafted, well thought out use of language. For me to express the same truths in the same way would take days of reflection, prayer and re-wording. I encourage you to explore these resources.

To close this post, I thought I'd share with you Regeneration: A Prayer.

O God of the highest heaven,
occupy the throne of my heart,
take full possession and reign supreme,
lay low every rebel lust,
let no vile passion resist thy holy war;
manifest thy mighty power,
and make me thine forever.
Thou art worthy to be
praised with my every breath,
loved with my every faculty of soul,
served with my every act of life.
Thou hast loved me, espoused me, received me,
purchased, washed, favored, clothed,
adorned me,
when I was a worthless, vile soiled, polluted.
I was dead in iniquities,
having no eyes to see thee,
no ears to hear thee,
no taste to relish thy joys,
no intelligence to know thee;
But thy Spirit has quickened me,
has brought me into a new world as a
new creature,
has given me spiritual perception,
has opened to me thy Word as light, guide, solace, joy.
Thy presence is to me a treasure of unending peace;
No provocation can part me from thy sympathy,
for thou hast drawn me with cords of love,
and dost forgive me daily, hourly.
O help me then to walk worthy of thy love,
of my hopes, and my vocation.
Keep me, for I cannot keep myself;
Protect me that no evil befall me;
Let me lay aside every sin admired of many;
Help me to walk by thy side, lean on thy arm,
hold converse with thee,
That I may be salt of the earth
and a blessing to all.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Anna

    January 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

    This is an interesting post. I have always been unsure about corporate (or individual) pre-written prayers, as they often seemed insincere, real or passionate when we were speaking to the living God. Although this ‘rehearsed routine’ is always a danger, I have lately been seeing their benefits.

    I have been reading C.S. Lewis’s book called ‘letters to malcom, chiefly on prayer’ and in it, he discusses some reasons why ‘ready made’ prayers can be beneficial:

    1. They remind him of sound doctrine

    2. They remind him of things he ought to ask (I find this especially beneficial)

    3. They provide an element of the ceremonial (reminding us of the reverence of God).

    Lewis states that in prayer ‘we ought to be simultaneously aware of closest proximity and infinite distance.’

    Ultimately he reminds his reader that it ‘would be better to not be reverent at all than to have a reverence which denied the proximity.’

    Either way, what an amazing privilege that

    ‘In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence!’

  2. admin

    January 13, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Anna,

    thanks for sharing the reflections from C.S. Lewis – I think they’re really helpful.

    I too have had reservations about using ‘ready made’ prayers, but have come to think that particularly in a church context when people are being ‘led’ in prayer, it’s important to give prayer the thought that it deserves. Corporate prayer is a chance to show others how to pray, to teach doctrine, and to show newcomers what prayer is all about.

    I’ve heard people get up to pray who haven’t thought it through, or worse still, say the same prayer each time they are leading prayer, which means that the people who are listening and ‘praying along’ just feel like going to sleep!

    I agree – what a great privilege it is to approach God freely!

    Steve

  3. Judith Atkins

    January 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Hey Steve (and other readers). This post reminded me that there have been a number of songs adapted from the Valley of Vision prayers. You can hear them at http://www.sovereigngracemusic.org/albums/category/sovereign_grace_music/valley_of_vision

  4. Steven Kryger

    January 31, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Thanks Judith – great suggestion!

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