Leading the Prayers of the People

This page is prepared especially for those who lead the prayers at MtE but we hope that other might find it helpful too!

Leading the prayers at Mark the Evangelist

The following expands on this CHECKLIST for your prepared prayers for Sunday. Please give some thought to each item on the list before offering your prayers

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 and specific concerns for situations at home and abroad.
  • Prayers for ourselves and those we know
    • These are more personal prayers for ourselves and those near to us.

How to pray in 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.

Several templates for prayer are can be found 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.

Consider the use periods of silence , 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. If you intend to use silence, it is helpful to decide beforehand how long (note-self-self: ‘count slowly to ten’, or similar!)

What to pray for

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.

  • Seek a balance between the wide-and-general (‘peace’, ‘hope’ for all) and the near-and-specific (recent events, particular people in difficult circumstances).
  • A cycle of prayer points for use in Sunday worship at Mark the Evangelist is available here.
  • 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.

Less can be more in public prayer. Work on the balance, such that the sense is conveyed that, by praying for some things, we are praying for all things.

Further Resources 

  • There are copies of the following lectionary-linked prayers resources are available for collection from the church (at MtE) the week prior to your duty; please remember to bring them back again!
    • 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)
  • Sam Well’s ‘Crafting prayers for public worship’ (2013) is a good resource covering many of possibilities and pitfalls of this ministry; a copy is available with the above prayer resources.
  • Paul F. Bosch and Donna Seamone, Crafting and Praying the Prayers