Friday, September 29, 2006

Slight Rant about Prayers before Sermons

Obviously I'm endorsing this! But here I'm not talking about preachers praying before they preach (which we must must must do) but the prayer before the sermon in a service.

Chatting with Sachy yesterday, we were wondering whether the way that (particularly in chapel) we pray before the sermon as opposed to before anything else can give the wrong impression. It is not as if we can do any of the things we attempt when we gather with any effectiveness or faithfulness without God's help. Why is preaching / listening to the sermon any different?

So we need to pray at the start - which has slightly fallen from being our practice here at college. But we could also pray before everything: it is fearsome to sing those great song words without sincerity, it would be awful to just say the confession and not mean it, and so on... And we should be dependent on God at every stage...

[So yesterday, despite singing 'Now in Reverence and Awe' directly before the sermon, the preacher (
whose sermon was outstanding, by the way) felt the need to pray again. If we needed to pray again, what was happening when we sung: 'Lord Jesus, let me meet you in your word' and 'Let your Sprit shine into our hearts and teach us' and so on? And today, despite the leader's original prayer (yes, we prayed at the start today) including the reading and explaining of the word, we still prayed again before the sermon; nothing wrong with that, of course, but it had been done already...]

What's the answer? Well, prayer is great, and it'd be brilliant if our gatherings included more and more of it. Also, the great news is that though (1) we cannot do anything good without God's help, and thus need prayer for everything, (2) God is gracious, loving that we praise him, serve him, etc whether or not we pray formally beforehand.

What is the solution in chapel or at church: it is really great to pray at the start, enjoying a communal expression of our total dependence on God. It is also great to pray before we preach - but might well have been covered in the opening prayer. If we don't pray at the start and do pray before the sermon, what does that say? Putting the extreme case: that we can approach God, confess our sins, hear forgiveness, sing songs, hear the Bible read etc etc without God's help, but need it now for his word.

Personally, I think it'd be great to have quick prayers before some of the songs, particularly the 'resolutions' songs, praying that we might mean them; prayer before our confession that we might mean it; prayer before our prayers that they might be right & true & good & faithful & pleasing to God & done in faith, and all that stuff... Do you see? We almost need to pray everywhere in a service... Give me only one prayer & I'll definitely stick it at the top of the whole thing, covering everything we're doing.

The thing is: wouldn't it be horrible if we gave the impression, however subtly, that the sermon was the only important thing in the gathering?

3 Comments:

Blogger matthew said...

Oh but it is. Isn't it?...

;-)

10:32 am, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous Amanda said...

Well done Mr Towner....Chapel two days running!

(comment from Mr Brewerton!)

7:35 pm, September 29, 2006  
Blogger matthew said...

I like the responsive start of classic Reformed liturgies, btw:

Our help is in the name of the Lord
Who made heaven and earth...

Gets you off on exactly the right footing (or it would if it followed "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen"!)

11:42 pm, September 30, 2006  

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