The Pastoral Prayer
Dear BPCWAians, During every worship service, just after the hymn before the sermon, there is the Pastoral prayer. Perhaps we’ve just taken it for granted as just another line in the Order of Worship, and never really cared or took much notice of it. Today, I want to help us understand this part of the worship.
Why is there a Pastoral Prayer? It is a time where the Pastor as the representative of the congregation prays for the corporate, collective needs of God’s people, on account of the covenant. In the Old Testament, we find the high priest, as a representative, leading in confessing the iniquities and transgressions of the children of Israel (Lev 16:21). Joshua and the elders of Israel “fell to the earth … before the ark of the LORD” (Josh 7:6) for the people. The people pleaded to Samuel to ask the Lord for forgiveness (1 Sam 12:19). Ezra prayed and confessed for Israel before an assembly of “a very great congregation of men and women and children” (Ezr 10:1). In the New Testament, we have our Lord teaching His disciples not “give me this day my daily bread. And forgive me my debts”, but “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:11- 12; underlined for emphasis). Pastoral prayer is a time when we, collectively as God’s people, remember that we are here assembled in His Name, and plead His grace and mercy for us to do what is His Work, in fulfilment of the same covenant that He extends to us today.
What would we pray for during the Pastoral Prayer? As with all prayers, but especially so when God’s people come collectively in prayer before Him, it is on the basis of our covenant with Him. We see this was how Moses, as the under-shepherd of God’s people, approached God in Exod 32:11-13.
And so, what we as a church pray for during Pastoral prayer, is also to plead for God’s favour that we may fulfil our covenantal purpose from Him as His people. Like Moses’ prayer, the aim of seeking any blessing, forgiveness, or help from God is that God’s Name may be hallowed. If we, as a church, have sinned against our Lord, we confess our sins before Him, pleading for forgiveness on the basis of His covenant. Just as confession is important in our personal prayer, confession is also important as a church, and there are many examples of such prayers made by the children of Israel. Finally, we also intercede for the work of His church for His kingdom during Pastoral prayer. Hence, we ought to pray for spiritual growth of His people, for God to guide the church’s ministries, grant wisdom and strength to our leaders to do His will, and aid us in executing His plans. We plead for His provision and discernment for His work. We pray for the spiritual wellbeing and edification of BPCWA and its worshippers. We pray for His Presence in our midst to be our guide and to protect us from all evil. We pray for unity of hearts to strive together not against each other. We ask our Lord to deliver us from our troubles so that we may serve Him without distraction but according to His will. We must remember that in all these, we are not merely asking for ourselves individually, but corporately for Hischurch, His people. We are pleading for the collective wellbeing of BPCWA, where we worship today, where we bring up our children, and where we want them to also continue in the faithful worship of and service to our God.
What should we do during the Pastoral prayer? 1) Settle yourselves. Children go off for Sunday school during the last hymn just prior to the Pastoral prayer. At times, parents have to bring their children for Sunday school too. As a consequence, suddenly the solemn Worship service can become abuzz with people walking around. But this is not an interval or intermission during the Service, a time to chit chat with other worshippers that you may meet along the way. Be quick in what you need to do, so that you can resume worship as soon as possible. Try to be back before the hymn finishes, and be seated before the Pastoral prayer starts. Unless you have a need to be up during this time, movement can be distracting, and it is even more so if there is movement during a time of prayer. Having settled your child, come back before the hymn ends, and settle your heart to prepare to pray to God. 2) Realise that it is a time of prayer which is speaking to our Almighty God. It is not a mere ritual and time to bow our heads but not our hearts. Approach it with reverence, humility and seriousness. Though the seats and layout in our sanctuary are not designed for kneeling, nevertheless let our bodies reflect the reverential posture of our hearts. 3) Join with the congregation in prayer. Remember that I am not praying alone up there. When I pray, I am presenting our prayers before God on behalf of the church. I am speaking on behalf of the church as I make our requests known to Him. You are also praying by following the prayer in your heart and give thanks to God, praise Him, and plead to Him as I lead the prayer. When God looks down from His throne, does He see us united in prayer before Him, desiring the same thing that I am asking God for at the pulpit? If not, why should God answer our prayers if we ask with a half-hearted attitude? Let us not sin by using this time as a nap time. No one sees but God knows. Instead, support in your heart the items being prayed for with earnestness and genuine desire for God to answer. Let us not forget that it is a wonderful privilege we have in being able to come in prayer with one heart and mind before our living God! What a blessed time to delight in coming as one people before Him!
Mt 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
May God be pleased to answer our Pastoral prayers that we bring before Him week after week!
Yours in our Lord’s service