During his 19 years as senior pastor of World Gospel Church, Terre Haute, Indiana, Pastor Bill Coker led the congregation in prayer during the Sunday morning worship service. After he had already prepared his sermon during the week, he moved his attention to the pastoral prayer.
Bill’s preparation of the prayer was as important to him as offering it. He set the time apart for preparation – to be in tune with the Lord and the congregation. The writing happened on Sunday morning at the church, before anyone arrived, alone with God and thoughtful of his responsibility as shepherd of the flock God gave him.
While I cannot write adequately about Bill’s preparations for his public pastoral prayers, I was in the congregation and heard those prayers for almost 20 years. He kept those typed prayers in 7″ x 9″ three-ring binders. I read them now, and they still have a current quality, alive and fresh.
In the worship service Bill’s prayers took about five minutes, perhaps a little less for bidding prayers. His pastoral prayer would come in the early order of the service after the praise team or choir led the congregation in singing. Often the opening part of the prayer would include praise and thanksgiving, referring to the preceding worship of music, perhaps adding a line from a hymn. The bulk of the prayer focused on the needs of the people — church, community, nation, world.
These pastoral prayers were addressed toward our heavenly Father. Not meant to bring any recognition to the author, the prayers only brought glory to the Trinity—God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Together we lifted our praise and thanksgiving to God and joined in requests and concerns related to the community of believers.
Perhaps pastoral prayers are a lost art today. What do you think?