Last week at Creek Rd Steve preached from Mark 8... challenging us to ask ourselves whether we really perceive why Jesus came. He asked me to lead both morning services, which included leading us in prayer.
As a staff team we're really trying to lift the whole shaping of each service. In prayer, we're doing this by insisting on written, prepared prayers. This is a cultural change for CRPC from longer prayers delivered ex tempore ('out of the moment'). We've adopted the ACTS thinking of 2 prayers (Adoration and Confession early on; Thanksgiving and Supplication later) by transplanting this idea from 10.30 church into 8:30 church and splitting what was previously a very long, single pastoral prayer. The first prayer is to reflect the big idea (eg. Jesus came to die for us) and also tie in with the rest of the service.
In this case, we had just begun the service with a very quick intro and two songs. The songs were 'Hear all creation sing' and 'Forever'. The big question we were setting up was "Why did Jesus come?".The kids were still in the service and we are aiming for prayers of only 3-4 minutes, since this seems to be the maximum that anyone can follow attentively. Steve was going to preach about seeing vs perceiving later when he looked at Peter and how, by Mk 8, he only partially understands what it means for Jesus to be the Christ.
Several people have asked me how/where I got the first prayer from; and many commented on how well it integrated into and lifted the whole message of the service. Here it is. I've included the bold bits which helped me to emphasise certain points.
Gracious God, we look forward to the day when we will hear all creation singing to you; when we will hear great rejoicing throughout the world, at the name of Jesus.
And even though the whole universe is not big enough to can contain you, even though you are a very, very big God, we still ask that you take for yourself the throne of our hearts, made by you and for you, and rule as our king, supreme in our lives, without rival; seeing off all competitors for our affections and dreams.
Put down in us every rebellious desire, every evil passion.
Purify our hearts by your mighty power and make us yours forever, Lord.
As your love endures forever, so too we want to sing praise to you forever.
For you are worthy to be praised with every breath we take,
to be loved with all our thoughts and affections
and to be served with every act of our will.....
...to be loved with all our bits and pieces.
For you have loved us, committed yourself to us....
You’ve received, purchased, washed, cleansed, clothed and adopted us as your children...
when we were unworthy, broken, rebellious, filthy and opposed to your rule in our lives.
We were dead in our rebellion and in our sin,
having no eyes to even see you,
no ears to hear you,
no desire to know you....
...and no capacity to please you.
We confess Lord, that we still get clouded by trivial problems,
that we fight over silly things,
that we doubt your ability or willingness to provide us what we need....
forgetting again and again that you have met our greatest – our deepest need.
For your Son Jesus died for us.
You have brought us forgiveness from our sins - by his blood shed on the cross.
And your Spirit has awakened us, has worked in our hearts as we’ve heard you reveal yourself to us, and as you have raised us from death to life... to abundant and eternal life together with you.
We are now your new creation.
We now hunger and thirst after you.
Your Word has come alive to us through your Son Jesus...
And now he is our light, our guide, our comfort and our delight.
In terms of drafting the prayer, I asked God to help me prepare (especially since I was very tired at the time) before getting stuck into it. I simply pulled out an old Valley of Vision prayer from the Puritans; translated some of the language into more modern English phrases, added a couple for the kiddies and changed a couple to more tie in with the songs and the big idea. Then I applied the Thurstonesque technique of quietly laying some seeds early on in the prayer (eg. the creation idea) to pick up at the end (eg. "now we are your new creation"). Then I reread it through a couple of times, removing the fluff and sharpening some phrases. Finally, I checked the wordcount to ensure it was under 3.5 minutes (at 125 words per minute).
I find service leading a great opportunity not only to help teach truth that's really healthy for our lives (Titus 2:1) but a very healthy exercise for my own edification. It was very nourishing for my soul, good fun and (so I'm told) helpful for the congregation. It is indeed a great privilege to have the responsibility of serving in this way.