Last week, I had the distinct honor of participating in the organizing of another congregation here in the greater Los Angeles area. Rev. Hsing Tang was ordained to pastor a Mandarin speaking congregation in Irvine, California, about 50 minutes south of LA.
As the organizing duties were being divided out among the presbyters, I was asked to pray what is called "the prayer of constitution."
Our Directory for Church Government says: "An elder shall offer prayer constituting the congregation in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the Church. The moderator shall then declare the congregation officially organized." (page, D-5)
But what's that look like? Can I have an example of that prayer? I wondered to myself what that prayer sounded like. What words would a prayer of constitution include? Jesus, teach us to pray--that seems to be the perpetual prayer of our Lord's disciples. Teach us to pray specific prayers--specific presbyterian prayers!
"Jesus, teach me to pray!"
I had participated in the organizing of a church in Las Vegas earlier in the year, but I guess since I was not asked to pray this particular prayer at that organization service, maybe I didn't pay too much attention to it. Sounds about right--selfish me.
"Jesus, teach me to pray!"
As I prepared for the public prayer, I consulted a number of sources. My first source was my pastor during college and seminary, Rev. Ray B. Lanning. Dr. Joel Beeke calls him "a walking encyclopedia" of the reformed faith. I knew he'd be a good starting point. After a thorough history of form prayers from "the Rev" as I call him, I sought out some other sources, from the Scripture and some from historic forms and liturgies, as well as our doctrinal standards.
As I worked out a prayer that I thought encompassed all of what I would want to see in a congregation's organization, I thought that I would share it here with you. Lord willing, we will see many more congregations organized along the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Hopefully, the desert places of Arizona and Nevada will blossom. We desire to see the mountains of Utah and Idaho sing forth with praise...and prayers. Considering how we would pray can help us to pray towards that end. "Jesus, teach us to pray! "
Will you pray with me (specific presbyterian prayers)?
Eternal God, infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth—whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain—much less the walls of church buildings—and who has been graciously pleased to promise your special presence where two or three are gathered in your name.
Lord be present with us, who are here gathered together, with all humility and readiness of heart, to establish this congregation to the honor of your great name. Dedicate this congregation to your service: for the reading of your holy Word, for celebrating the holy sacraments, for offering the praise of psalms, and prayers of thanksgivings; for blessing your name. > > Bless this congregation with success as your glory goes forth; as the gospel is preached; as your saints are established in genuine happiness—blessedness—in things of this earth and of things eternal.
Hear the prayers of your servants, and grant that whosoever shall be received by baptism and by profession of faith in this congregation may be set apart by your Holy Spirit. Whoever draws near to you in this place to give you thanks for the benefits which they receive by your hands; to set forth praise; to confess sins; to ask for things necessary—may they do so with sobriety, affection, and devotion. May you accept their worship which is their reasonable service.
Grant by your Spirit that as your Word is preached in this place that it would go forth with power and be received as the Word of God. And may the power of that proclaimed word convert sinners, establish disciples, raise up missionaries and pastors to go forth—in multiplicity—with that same Word and gospel. > > Bind this congregation together—and all who will covenant with her in years to come—by your grace, and your mercy, and the bond of covenant love.
By the authority of Jesus Christ, who alone builds the church, who alone is head and king over the church that he is building—organize and sanctify this congregation of your true church unto the glory of Christ’s name.
Sources consulted and used:
- I Kings 8:22-61, Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the first temple
- 1645 Westminster Directory for Church Government
- 1647 Westminster Larger Catechism
- 1928 Book of Common Worship
- 1980 Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church
- 2009 Directory for Public Worship