[This post is part of the series on Preaching for Youth] In many churches it is customary to pray during a sermon. It can also be something you want to do yourself for various reasons, for instance as an opening or a closing to your sermon. Whatever the reason top pray during a sermon, how do you go about it?
Prepare your prayer
It’s important to think about what you want to say in your prayer. That’s not because God only hears perfect well-formulated prayers obviously, because that’s just nonsense. God cares about your heart when you pray, but that doesn’t mean you should always do it spontaneously.
There are some important benefits to preparing your prayer:
- You won’t forget to pray for specific people or situations that are important;
- You can mention something from your sermon and so make your sermon and your prayer fit well together;
- It helps you think about how you want to say something, preventing you to say something funny or stupid by chance;
- it can help you to think about the language in your prayer as well, making sure it’s understandable for young people;
- It prevents you from falling back on cliché prayers and empty, meaningless phrases;
- It prevents stress when it’s time to pray because you know what you want to say;
- You can stress certain aspects you think are important, like thankfulness, obedience, praise, etc;
- You can make your prayer more specific, especially with regards to your key message;
- It helps you to keep it brief and to the point, instead of going off on a rambling, incoherent prayer;
- You have the opportunity to try some new things, like saying a prayer (partly) together, closing off with the ‘Our Father’ or using (parts) of standard prayers;
- You could use some rhetoric means in your prayer to make it ‘beautiful’.
Now before I get accused of heresy, let me be very clear: prayers don’t have to be perfect or beautiful to be heard. It’s definitely not supposed to be a contest for the most effective prayer or something. We’re not praying so others can admire us!
But at the same time we shouldn’t forget that our prayers are an example to others as well. You can both honestly petition God and at the same time teach your audience something. Isn’t that what Jesus did when He taught us how to pray?
Delivering your prayer
Even when you prepare your prayer, you don’t have to (or maybe I should say you shouldn’t) read it out loud. You can still pray it naturally, changing the words as you go or adding a few things here and there, led by the Holy Spirit. You also don’t have to write everything out, you could list a few key words or topics you want to mention and add a closing sentence or blessing for instance (I personally always forget the right order of the ‘high priest blessing’, even though I’ve heard it and said it many times – I always write it down so I’m sure to get it right).
Be sure to announce you’re going to pray, even when it’s standard. First time guests won;t know and they may start talking or something. Also be very clear if you want people to stand during prayer, that’s another area of possible confusion for visitors.
One last tip: be sure to speak clearly when praying as well. Some people have a ‘praying voice’ as opposed to a talking or preaching voice and their prayers turn into one big mumble. You want the people to be able to hear you, to pray with you, so make sure to speak just as clearly when you pray during your sermon as when you actually preach. On the other opposite are people who all of a sudden change into a booming, dramatic prayer voice. That’s not necessary either. Just talk normal, but be clear.