Exercise 2 – A Basic Form for Prayer

Let the Whole Church Say Amen!: A Guide for Those Who Pray in PublicThe second exercise is to learn a basic form for brief prayers. The texts for this are Romans 15:5-6, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

The book suggests the following steps.

  1. Think of a central petition of God.
  2. Think of the reason for the Request.
  3. Think of something in the nature of God that allows this request.
  4. Add an address to God, something like “Almighty God”, “O God”, or even “Our Heavanly Father.”
  5. Add the closing, usually “Amen”, or “In Jesus name, Amen”, or even “Through the blessed name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

An important consideration to keep in mind so that one does not use God to force our own ideas is to be sure that all in the audience can say amen. So on a controversial topic the one giving the prayer should not say something like, “Lord we pray that you will help us all to see the wisdom of the current amendment.” More appropriately would be: “Lord we pray that you will help us make the right decision on this important amendment.” The goal is to get everyone in the church to be able to say “amen” to the prayer.

Now order it the following way:

  1. Address (salutation)
  2. Attribution
  3. Petition
  4. Purpose
  5. Closing

Now let us assume that I have been asked to give a prayer at a civil rights gathering. The petition is that God will be with us and enlighten our minds. The reason for the request is so that we will make the proper decisions on some issue. The nature of God is wisdom which allows God to answer this petition. So we can have a prayer:

Almigthy God,

You have promised to give wisdom to those who would ask. Today we beg of thee that thou would enlighten our minds that we might make the correct decision.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen.

Now let me see another situation. Let us say that I have been called to pray at a funeral that I had not prepared for. The central petition is that the family and friends will be comforted through a difficult time. The purpose is so that we can continue to live the way God would have us to live. Basically the purpose is to survive and thrive. God comforts the afflicted and gives strength to the weak. That is in the nature of God.

Oh Tender Comforter,

We know that you comfort the afflicted. We know that you give strength to those who are in great need and so we come asking that you would come here and spread that peace that passes all understanding. We ask that thou would do this so that we can continue to be a light to those who need our strength and courage in this trying time.

In thy holy and blessed name,

Amen

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  • Vernetia Miller

    I have experienced occasions where prayer consists of listing many, many attributes of God, followed by seemingly unending petitions, then much exhortation and several closings, all peppered with salutations every 3rd or 5th word. This is not the tradition in which I was brought up, so I haven’t gotten the hang of it. What is an appropriate balance for corporate prayer in the African American tradition?

  • Sherman Haywood Cox II

    Interesting question. I have heard the types of prayers you are speaking of and do not subscribe to using such prayers. I do wish to be careful here in that different traditions bring different approaches, but I would be careful not to indulge in “vain repetitions.” (Matthew 6:7)

    I would suggest first of all knowing the purpose of the public prayer you are engaging in and then engaging in that prayer with meaning and power.

    There is a time for the long prayer, but in general I would suggest being as short as you can while fulfilling the purpose of the prayer. I would say to always leave room for the spirit to change your plans however…