Opening/Closing Prayer Guidelines Study No. 227
irst of all, I want to thank you for your willingness to serve God in this important capacity. Being called on to lead an opening or closing prayer is a meaningful responsibility. These prayers are not thoughtless, hollow, meaningless rituals. Fervent prayers offered in earnest with believing faith make a difference (James 5:16)!
Men who are asked to lead opening or closing prayers should understand the purpose of these prayers, and know what to do when giving them, as well as what not to do. Here are some general tips:
· Don’t pray a canned or rehearsed prayer. Let God inspire your words.
· Be careful not to turn prayers into sermonettes. Prayers should be brief. Brevity does not make prayer ineffective.
· Avoid vain repetitions, Matthew 6:7. Don’t just mouth words. Some have repeated “Father,” or similar expressions, a half dozen or more times in a short opening or closing prayer. This certainly can be vain repetition. On the one hand, this can be a sign of nervousness, or just a bad habit we can fall into, so it’s understandable in one sense, but we need to be admonished to work to avoid it!
· Talk to God, not the audience. Keep in mind that you are speaking to God. It is a prayer.
· Be sincere, straightforward, and unaffected. Get your mind off yourself and say what you have to say. Be confident and yet humble. Use a normal, clear, voice and avoid theatrics. Avoid false humility or an emotional display.
· Always pray “we” and never “I.” Remember, you are praying for the entire congregation. This is not a personal prayer.
· Move to the microphone without a lot of noise or commotion. Avoid making a grand entrance. During the last song, move discreetly to the speaker’s area of the stage. As the song ends, you should be about five feet from the song leader; there should be no time lag after the hymn.
· Remember the primary purpose of the opening prayer. Ask for God’s inspiration on all aspects of the service, especially the speaking and hearing.
· Be sure to thank God. Express gratitude for being able to meet in peace, for the meeting hall, for the weather, or for other ways God has blessed the Church, Ephesians 5:20.
· Ask for God’s inspiration on the sermonette and sermon. Ask that Jesus Christ be present in spirit to guide the proceedings. Ask God to speak through His servants to provide the congregation with what it most needs.
· Stick to the point. A brief opening prayer is just that — it is meant to open services. You do not need to cover the entire spectrum of current events, plan of salvation, or events of the week.
· Show God you comprehended and benefited from the messages. Thank God for the spiritual food He provided, perhaps mentioning one or two specific points from the messages.
· Don’t summarize or add additional points to the messages. Primarily, the closing prayer should ask God to help the congregation achieve the results the speakers had in mind.
· On occasion, it’s OK to allude to important areas mentioned in the announcements. If the announcements included news of illnesses in the Church, or other important points about God’s Work, include brief comments about these points.
· Ask for God’s protection as brethren travel home, and ministers travel to other congregations.
· It is good to ask a special blessing on leading ministers, and the unity and well-being of God’s Church in either the opening or closing prayer.
· These points are given as guidelines and are not a set of rigid rules. If you are called upon to lead an opening or closing prayer, thank God for the opportunity and be sure your prayer is one to which the entire congregation can sincerely say “Amen.”
— by Glen Gilchrist, Area Pastor, Living Church of God Ω