A Plea Prompted by “Low-Quality Public Prayers”

Can I be frank? I’m distressed by the low quality of public prayer that is being heard in too many worship services today. Too often, prayer is used as a transition from one event to another. But what if the pastoral prayer was (as some like to say) a main event?

When Solomon dedicated the temple, a large part of his public leadership was a quite pastoral prayer. He knelt and said, “Lord, there is none like you … you’ve kept your promises … please give attention to my prayer … may you hear the prayer your servant prays toward his place … deliver us when we’ve been defeated … teach us the way to live … help us to walk in your ways … when we sin, please forgive.”

This is not a lightweight prayer. It takes in everybody in the crowd. As he opens the gates of the temple, the king (little k) is interceding to the King (big K) on behalf of all who will come to worship.

I love to be in worship when young men and women are leading. And many of them lead us so well. But when they come to the place where prayer is appropriate, the substance of the prayer sometimes reveals a person who has hardly thought for a minute what they are going to say next. If the music was done like the praying, we’d probably switch bands rather quickly.

“God … we just want to thank you for this day … that we just could … just … sing to you … that we could … just … love you.”

Well meant, those words. But they lack thought; they lack power, and they fail to lodge themselves in the souls of their hearers. The aged one losing control of his life who is listening for assurance. The sinner who is listening for hope. The addict who listens for deliverance. And the joyful person, who listens for thanksgiving.

Prayer can be intentional, thoughtful, powerful. Let’s give our prayers the energy and depth that our Audience—and our audience—deserves.


Gordon MacDonald is editor at large of Leadership Journal and chancellor of Denver Seminary. Watch for MacDonald’s full-length article on prayer in the Spring issue of Leadership Journal. Not a subscriber? Try a free trial offer!