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.
- 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.
- 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,
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
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.