Recently I have received several questions regarding types of prayer. In response to those questions I have developed this short document on prayer. You might want to save it for future reference when you are asked to offer a particular kind of prayer in worship.
Role of Prayer in Public Worship
The prayers in a worship service constitute a very sacred time in which the corporate voice of God’s people is lifted heavenward. Such efforts should never be done unthinkingly, and such prayers should never be written carelessly. Indeed, in some ways, corporate prayers require more thought than personal prayers because they must address the needs and concerns of many. It is important to always remember that public prayer in worship is for the entire body not just the person offering the prayer. Let there be careful forethought to the prayers we offer, regardless of whether we offer them extemporaneously or through written form.
Types of Worship Prayers
There are many varieties of prayer that will appear in worship services, depending on the location in the service and the purpose for which the prayer is intended. Each will likely have its own focus and purpose. Identifying a number of these types can raise our awareness of the distinct nature of each prayer we include in a service. These are by no means all of the types of prayer but they are some of the most common ones.
Prayer of Invocation – A brief prayer near the opening of worship in which the congregation calls on God to be present and give blessing while we worship. It is good to note that God is always present and we are really asking for our awareness of His Presence.
Prayer of Confession – A corporate prayer in which sins and sinfulness are confessed and the congregation asks God for his mercy to forgive them.
Prayer for Illumination – Either before the Scripture reading or between the Scripture reading and sermon, this prayer asks for God’s Spirit to illumine our minds and hearts as it is preached and received.
Prayer of Application – A prayer after the sermon in which we may give thanks to God for the truth of his word that we have heard, and for his blessing as we attempt to respond to it and obey it in our living.
Offertory Prayer – A prayer that is focused specifically on the offering that is given. Either before or after the offering has been received, this prayer asks for God to use these gifts and pour out his blessing on the ministries these gifts support.
Pastoral Prayer – This prayer gathers the joys and celebrations, needs and concerns of the worshipers, and also provides intercession for the needs of others and the church in the world. This prayer requires an understanding and sensitivity to the needs of the whole congregation. A pastoral prayer can be offered by anyone, not just the pastor.
Specific Prayers of Thanks – At certain times a spontaneous prayer of thanks is appropriate. A testimony has been given, a prayer has been answered, or a need has been met. It is good for a congregation to pause with a focused prayer of thanks for such events.
Benedictory Prayer – is a short blessing with which public worship is concluded. It is not a long prayer. It is short and concise.
Sending Forth Prayer or Statement – highlights the implications of what has been taught and experienced, and praying for faithfulness in the week that lies ahead.
Closing Prayer – Many New Testament letters end with some form of praise to God and commendation of believers to the care and guidance of God. These and other forms of blessing can provide a satisfying indication that the gathering has ended, even though the fellowship and ministry of believers continue informally in various ways.