/ Kyle E. Sims

A Few Thoughts on Corporate Prayer

In the late 1990s, Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old visited my seminary and lectured on worship and prayer. As a young minister, he had asked other ministers how to grow in his leading in Public prayer. He was told to go to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. He balked at this idea of just leaning on the BCP as a guide to learn prayer. He thought that being a Presbyterian, we should look at our own tradition and not just rely on the Anglicans for how to lead God’s people in prayer. 

A few years later, I was a student of Dr. Old at Erskine Seminary working on a Doctor of Ministry with a concentration in Reformed Worship. Dr. Old loved the Psalms and Psalm singing. He met his wife in Lafayette, Indiana where she was a member of the RPCNA. Dr. Old taught us that the Psalms were a great foundation for learning the language of prayer. He also wrote a book entitled Leading in Prayer which gave examples of different types of prayers and how they could be organized. My favorite book of Dr. Old is The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship. At one point, in this book, he lays out a fivefold method of intercessor prayer that I have found helpful in leading people in corporate prayer. This method flows from the scriptures and is found in the teaching of the Patristic fathers and the Reformers. 

The five areas of this intercessory prayer are 1) Prayer for the Civil Authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2), 2) Prayer for the Ministry (Matt. 9:36-38), 3) Prayer for All Men (1 Tim. 2:1-4), 4) Prayer for the perfection of the saints (Eph. 6:18), and 5) Prayer for the Afflicted (Jam. 5:13-18). For me, finding this paradigm helped me greatly in leading my congregation in prayer each week.  

Each week, I would try and pick up major themes and needs from my pastoral work among the congregation.  Also, I would pick up the major needs of the day from around the nation and the world. However, I almost always end the prayer time with this fivefold division to help me in praying for the needs. 

In praying for the civil government, it was always good to pray for our leaders at every level of government. But you can also pray for those workers in the government who serve us, often at great sacrifice. Our military personnel are a great example of those we can remember in prayer and giving thanks to God for their service and sacrifice. 

In praying for the ministry of the church, you can pray for the different aspects of ministry in the local church. Pray for the ministry of the Word. Pray for the local efforts in evangelism and Christian Education. Pray for upcoming special events such as VBS or Presbytery. 

In praying for all men, you pray for those outside the church. For the common grace needs of all men. In a farming community, you might pray for rain. This is where I like to focus on the lost, praying that the Lord will save those around us. 

In praying for the perfection of the saints, you pray for each other as believers. You pray that you will continue to grow in Christ. Praying that the Lord will produce in each believer more spiritual fruit and that they will be protected and guarded in the faith. 

Finally, you pray for the afflicted. These are the needs of the individual church members. In a smaller church, you may pray for particular needs by name. In a larger church, the needs may be prayed for by categories. I often divide this area into four parts. I pray for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. So you will pray for the sick and injured. You will pray for those who are carrying heavy burdens. Pray for those who are grieving. Pray for those who are struggling in the faith. Again, these are just markers to help you expand and cover many areas in corporate prayer. 

How much do you work on your prayers as a pastor, elder, or Sunday School teacher? Where are you drawing inspiration for your leading others in praying? The Word of God, especially the Psalms and prayers found in scripture, are foundational to leading in corporate prayer. Dr. Old’s book on prayer or Samuel Miller’s classic Thoughts on Public Prayer would make great resources. 

Examine your own personal prayer life and see how you can grow learning from others. If you lead prayer at church or even just in the home, then make the effort to learn how to be a better leader in prayer. 

Kyle E. Sims

Kyle E. Sims

Director of Seminary Admission and Church Relations at Erskine Seminary. Principal Clerk ARP General Synod. Pastor since 1999. 6’ 11” former Basketball player.

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