Preaching in your public prayers

Are there things we should avoid when we pray in public worship? I listened to a sermon recently in which a well-known expositor began his sermon by addressing Satan in his prayer. Something to the effect of “Satan, you have no authority, you are bound . . .etc.” I listened to another sermon where the closing prayer fleshed-out the preacher’s final point which he had not developed during the sermon.

How many times have we concluded a sermon and started to pray only to drift back over into the other lane and round-out a few points of the sermon in our prayer? We must avoid the temptation to keep preaching to the people in our prayers. When we pray we are no longer addressing the people but “Our Father who art in heaven . . .” Therefore pray to God, it is not a time to preach to the people or worse announce to Satan that he is somehow “bound.”

Samuel Miller wrote that “the excellence of a public prayer may be marred by introducing into it a large portion of didactic statement.” More recently, Ligon Duncan has noted “The purpose of prayer is not to provide an outline of the text, the sermon or some topic in Christian doctrine, but to lead sinners to the throne of grace.”

Any thoughts?

5 responses to this post.

  1. Yes and no. We should not treat public prayer as just another avenue for preaching. But just as we pray back to God much of what we read in Scripture, it makes sense that a concluding prayer will pray back to God some of the things that have just been preached from his Word. And that may indeed lead sinners to the throne of grace.

  2. Thanks Ray, I think you’re right. I was mainly thinking of those who tend to “preach” to the people in their prayers. I agree that praying the Scripture is not only helpful but right.


  3. I think it’s legitimate to ask God to help us do what the saints have been obligated to through the Word.

    However … I hate to hear the praying person really talking to the listeners.

    The worst is the person praying before issuing an “altar call” in the service. It’s not uncommon to hear something like: “Lord, help those who need to trust in Jesus to walk down the aisle. I’ll be here and there will be some other folks to talk with them. They can go off with Charlie, the guy in the blue suit with the red tie, into the Inquiry Room, where there are cookies and coffee. And, if they’re too scared, they can just take the little slip in the bulletin and indicate that they want to trust in Jesus. It’s the 3rd box from the top, but they need to fill out their name and contact information, Lord, so we can contact them to follow up on their decision. Lord, let them know that today is the day of salvation and that they really shouldn’t put it off, you know, since there are no guarantees of tomorrow.”

    Okay, I may have had a little fun with it, but that’s not much of a stretch.

    Back to the original issue … on the one hand you’re praying in public, so it’s on behalf of the people. So, while you’re not out to impress them, the fact that you’re praying on their behalf as well and it’s out loud indicates that one shouldn’t disregard them as a listening portion of the audience.

  4. This is a valid point. I, myself have prayed more a recap than a prayer in order to make sure I got my point across. While I think it’s good to include some nod to the sermon in our prayers, it is certainly no time to extend or amend out teaching.

    The prayer should be God focused and provide the congregation an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to seal up the things they’ve just heard. We’re sending them out the door at this point and they should carry with them (hopefully) a final surrender to the Lord for His ongoing development of the teaching He just provided through His servant.

  5. Posted by ds on March 6, 2008 at 2:56 am

    I heard that very same thing some years back; perhaps it was the same tape. Very disturbing indeed; I think he (JP) was going thru a phase, perhaps influenced by his Fuller background.

    The prayers of Paul in the prison epistles are not preaching to his readers but they are edifying and exemplary. It is irreverent to turn a prayer vertically.

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