Prayer is one of the avenues God has prescribed for our worship. As we pray unto Him, we give praise and adoration to Him, we express thanksgiving, we confess our shortcomings and sins, we beg His tender mercies, we present out our requests, and we seek His providential protection. In a psalm that is ascribed to Solomon, the attentive nature of our Father, when we come to Him, is vividly described, “For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper” (Ps. 72:12). Charles Spurgeon, in The Treasury of David, makes this helpful comment: “A child’s cry touches a father’s heart, and our King is the Father of his people. If we can do no more than cry it will bring omnipotence to our aid.”
In helping us to realize in a greater way the privilege of prayer, the following exhortation should thrill us, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Our prayers should never be characterized by timidity. We are invited to come before our Father with “confidence.” We do not have to wonder if God desires our coming to Him. We are given the exalted privilege of being a royal priesthood (I Pet. 2:5). One application of this blessing is that we can “draw near to the throne of grace”.
I believe one gauge of a congregation’s devotion to spiritual worship is in the emphasis given to prayer. As the congregation is assembled for worship, the time devoted to prayer should never be seen as rote, routine, or ritualistic. As the assigned brother leads the assembly in prayer, you and I are to involve ourselves by fervent concentration. Each of us has the responsibility of being spiritually and mentally involved in the prayer being lead.
Imagine you were in a small group of people who had an audience with a high governmental official. How attentive would you be to what was taking place and being said in this meeting? Most certainly, you would not be thinking about something that needed to be done later in the day or week. The reason you would be giving your greatest possible concentration would be due to the respect of the office of the governmental official. But I am afraid that sometimes when we come together for worship our great God in the assembly, we may find it easy to let our minds wander as we are being lead in prayer.
The following are some suggestions that I hope will help us as we come together and collectively pray in the assembly:
We must prepare ourselves. When we turn on a light switch instantly the light is shining. But you and I do not have a worship “switch” that we can turn on, and instantly we are worshipping. Worship without preparation will result in worship that is mundane and heartless. One helpful exercise is to meditate on the holiness of God. One passage that aids us in directing our thoughts is Psalm 33:20-21, “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust is holy name.”
Anticipate the privilege and joy of worship. The enthusiastic attitude of David toward worship is seen in his exclamation, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps. 122:1). When we pillow our head on Saturday night, the last thought we have before we drift off to sleep should be on the privilege that awaits us the next morning. Then when we awake in the morning, our anticipation should be even greater!
Enter the worship service with a deep sense of reverence and awe. Psalm 96:4 reminds us, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” In one of his books on worship, Tom Holland recounts the thoughts of one brother regarding how we should approach worship. The following is a paraphrase of his comments: We should imagine God is seated on a throne at the front of the auditorium, receiving our praise and adoration.