Leading the Prayers of the People

This page has some specific notes for those who lead the prayers at MtE, as well as more general pointers on the leading of intercessory prayers in public worship

Resources for leading the prayers at Mark the Evangelist

  • A cycle of prayer points for use in Sunday worship at Mark the Evangelist is available here.
  • Several templates for prayer are also provided here. Some of these are based on Janet Nelson’s Let us pray. Others are taken from a very useful online resource for building up prayers for Sunday worship on Church of England’s Prayers page, which includes a large number of good templates and suggested responses. Some suggestions as to the use of these prayer styles is given in the template document.
  • At MtE prayer points may be suggested by members of the congregation via the book in the entry foyer. These should be included in the prayer, although judgement and discretion may be required when it comes to naming individuals in the prayer — check with the worship leader on the day if you’re unsure.

For those at MtE who are responsible for composing the prayer of the people in Sunday worship, there are copies of several good prayers resource available for collection from the church the week prior to your duty; please remember to bring them back again!

Alternatively, prayers can be written (or composed ex tempore!) which are quite general in their wording so as to include a very wide range of concerns. The use of periods of silence can be helpful here, during which congregational members can respond to the pray-er’s prompting by naming in silence (or out loud, if it has been encouraged) a person or situation which relates to the prompt.

Leading prayers in public worship

As with all types of prayer, intercessory prayers can be written down or spoken “ex tempore” (off the cuff!)

Ex tempore prayers have the advantage of requiring relatively little preparation and often have a warmth and humanness about them which can be lost in more formal, written prayers. At the same time, they can also become repetitive, often get stuck in the pray-ers favourite phrases and themes, and tend to ramble on and on, especially if little thought has been given to how the prayer will begin and finish.

Pre-written prayers have the advantage of making it easier to pray by removing the problem of nerves for those who don’t feel confident to “make it up as they go along”. Consequently, many more people might be able to lead the congregation in prayer. A major disadvantage of written prayers is that the language is often more formal and clumsy than what we normally hear and so can sound unnatural.

Where it is possible, a mixture of the two gives a good result. With a bit of practice on the pray-er’s part it would be difficult for a listener to know which part of a prayer was being read from a page and which it was being “made up on the spot”.

Whether written or ex temporare, intercessory prayers work best when they are carefully structured and it is useful to have a structure in mind before you begin to write a prayer or say one off the cuff.

The structure of an intercessory prayer

A useful structure is threefold one which reflects both the way God works in the world, and the diversity of concerns we have as God’s people: prayers for the church, the world, and ourselves.

  • Prayers for the church

As those who have heard the good news of God’s work in the world, the members of the church become part of the means by which God will work in the world. The prayers for the church are, then, prayers that God’s people will be faithful to his calling in order that God’s purposes might be more greatly known and effected in the world.

  • Prayers for the world

These could cover general concerns for situations at home and abroad.

  • Prayers for ourselves

These are more personal prayers for ourselves and those near to us.

Topics for prayer

The things we believe need prayer are very, very many! This makes it easy to imagine that everything must be covered in all prayers, with the result that the prayers of the people can become very long and rambling.

The use of a prayer sheet or a cycle of prayers can help to cover most of the ground which concerns us over a period of weeks or months so that we needn’t feel that all things must be listed each week. Basic prayer models can then be used which are adapted for the prayer sheets or cycles of concerns by inserting particular points at particular times.

Other useful resources for worship 

  • Paul F. Bosch and Donna Seamone, Crafting and Praying the Prayers
  • Janet Nelson, Let us Pray, Collins 1999
  • Raymond Chapman, Leading intercesions, Canterbury Press 2006
  • David Adam, Clouds and Glory (Year A), Traces of Glory (Year B), Glimpses of Glory (Year C), SPCL 1998-2000; these are available in a combined volume: Radiance of His Glory: Prayers for the Church: Years A, B and C (2009)