Why Are We Praying Less and Singing More?

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prayerPrayer has been demoted to the role of a worship service starter, stuffer, and stopper. Instead of a profound conversation with the Father as a primary act of worship, it has been plugged in as a transitional appendage.

So it serves as the seventh inning stretch before the sermon; it breaks up the song sets when keys aren’t relative; it moves the worship band on the platform; and it allows the pastor to discreetly make his way up the aisle to shake hands after the service.

Maybe we are singing more and praying less because our worship service prayers are not that deep. Song texts have been parsed, prayed over, and practiced, while our prayers are often played by ear. The spontaneous prayer may be sincere, but it’s often not very profound. Spontaneity needs to be supported by an intense prayer life. It’s hard to go where you haven’t been.[1]

Maybe we are singing more and praying less because prayer is an easy language to fake. We can pretend to pray, use acceptable words of prayer, practice forms of prayer, assume postures of prayer, acquire a reputation for prayer, and never really pray.[2]

Maybe we are singing more and praying less because we actually require our soloists, choirs, orchestras, worship teams, and bands to rehearse ahead of time. So if worship service prayer preparations were as stringent as those for our musical offerings, then maybe we’d consider singing a little less in order to pray a little more. Then maybe our worship service prayers would again be considered foundational instead of supplemental.

 

[1] Hughes Oliphant Old, Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Worship (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1995), 5.

[2] Eugene H. Peterson, as quoted in Harold M. Best, Dumbfounded Praying (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011), xii.

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5 Responses to “Why Are We Praying Less and Singing More?”

  • Joe Saubert Jr Says:

    When we enter church we greet people and are greeted by people we are blessed or offer blessings, perhaps get encouraged or we are encouraging others. People shake hands , hug and occasionally kiss. This may or may not be seen as an act of prayer, but it so pleases the Lord to see his family gather together that perhaps it counts.
    After greeting people and before announcements there is an opportunity to pray. My prayer sometimes is this simple. “Lord make this hour about you and not me. Touch hearts, heal hearts, meet needs, but most of all enjoy our worship and thanks for another week, another day, for today.”
    During announcements there is the opportunity to be praying for those very announcements.
    As we greet people before we begin to sing sometimes shaking hands or giving a hug leaving me wanting to specifically pray for that person and I do during the first song. Often during the worship songs, the special number during the offering or the choir anthem I pray for members of the worship team, members of the choir, or random people in the congregation. Sometimes I stop singing and just spend some personal time with God sharing my heart. I enjoy this time most when it’s about just thanking him for our church and the people He has put in my life.
    During the pastoral prayer I pray in agreement with the prayers being prayed. And I ask the Lord to speak through the speaker and to open my ears, eyes, heart and soul and to give me the boldness to share His loving kindness when the opportunity presents itself.
    During the sermon there is often opportunity to pray.
    And as we close the service in song my heart often prays the words of the closing hymn. I lift my voice giving back to a God who has given me so much more than I deserve.
    Sometimes I don’t sing the last song. I just seat there and pray.

    Over the years I’ve been taught and reminded to pray without ceasing. It’s easier said than done. But a worship service, that the easiest place to do it.

    The article talked about the spontaneity of prayer let it was a bad thing – I disagree, I trust the Holy Spirit to put on my heart and my lips the thoughts and words that I pray. Prayer isn’t sometimes I practice like a song. Prayer is that song I can’t get out of my head and I keep singing it over and over again.

    Prayer isn’t used to transition during the worship service
    Prayer is used to transform
    Transform my heart, my emotions, my direction, my desires

    I come to church to pray
    I leave church praying

    Guess I just don’t see the lack of prayer that the article was describing.

  • Mark Todd Says:

    David,
    You smartly question the relatively small amount of prayer heard in many worship services. I think part of the problem is we have become more comfortable in “telling” people about faith, rather than showing it. Prayer is intimate. It’s also not highly entertaining. Prayer doesn’t offer the high stimuli that many extraverts find exhilarating. We are the poorer for it. Prayer can be quite stimulating. Or not. Will we take the risk?

    Church worship services have a wonderful opportunity for engagement with God and others. But, my frustration is that we more often have theater, rather than fellowship with God and his family. Though small groups can fill the void left by performance oriented services, I think we can do better with God’s help.

  • Chuck King Says:

    Yes. “Prayer” has become the transitional tool employed to move from bullet point to bullet point in orders of service. But I also understand worship/song/singing to be a valid language of prayer when the heart is intentionally focused. Consider the texts of the ancient chants in the tradition of orthodox churches (and synagogues). Most all are prayer focused. We’ve been guilty of diluting both prayer and worship to serve a different purpose in our gatherings.

  • David Manner Says:

    Ron, thanks for a great testimony of how worshipful this can be in a local church setting at Olivet.

  • Ron Pracht Says:

    David,

    You are spot on! We have become much more intentional in our prayer times and I find it incredibly encouraging personally…and our church family is being taught how to pray through the example of our Elders leading extended times of prayer. We make time for prayer in our gathering because everything we do in worship teaches our people what we value and something about our great God!

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