As Luke emphasizes around thirty times in the book of Acts, the Apostolic church was (is) a praying church, a people who gather to worship the Lord in prayer. Throughout history the church has regarded prayer as a chief part of the corporate Christian life. The Heidelberg Catechism, in its exposition of the 4th commandment, even says that God’s will for us on the Lord’s Day has much to do with corporate prayer.
Unfortunately, one trend in churches today is to make public prayers a mere footnote of worship. The rationale (though stated differently) is because public prayer is not exciting or fun (there is no instant gratification in it). Furthermore, it could mean losing some visitors who aren’t used to sitting quietly in prayer for five minutes. (To be fair, even in some traditions where public prayer is still an essential part of worship, there are some pastors who switch into robot mode for the prayer. This makes it very difficult for the body to follow along attentively.)
I like what Dan Lucarini has to say in his book, It’s Not About the Music. As I mentioned here before, at one time Lucarini was a worship leader of a CCM-type band; he’s got a very interesting and unique story which is worth reading. Here’s what he says in the area of public prayer, which he calls one of the jewels of public worship.
“It is time to bring back the pastoral prayer, which has fallen into neglect in many churches. We need the [under]shepherd of the local flock to pray for us, just as the Chief Shepherd did when he was on earth and still does for the church, interceding constantly for us in heaven as our advocate before the Father.”
“It is also time for churches to put an end to the disrespect shown to public prayer. At some churches, while a pastor is praying for the sick and the unsaved – very serious matters – musicians and other ‘worship leaders’ are busy shuffling sheet music, adjusting microphones, changing instrumental settings, or moving across the platform to their next performance position. The media booth personnel are frantically re-adjusting sound levels, lighting, computer presentations, or a dozen other technology items. Ushers are walking about when they should be still and hushed.”
That’s hard-hitting. all too true, and very tragic. What does it say about a worship leader who is toying with his music or instrument during public prayer? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think someone with such a trivial view of prayer should be leading worship. In fact, Lucarini is rightly blunt: he says that pastors (and I would add elders) need to put a stop to such things immediately. He also wisely tells churches, “Be careful that you are not more concerned about the form and flow of your worship service than you are about prayer.” Amen.
The above quotes are found on pages 87-88 of It’s Not About the Music.