Good Preachers; Poor PrayersJune 5, 2007
I came across a gem of a quote while reading Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology yesterday relating to the preacher’s prayers. If nothing else, read his six pointers for public prayer.
“While teaching should be, as it clearly was during the apostolic age, the prominent object in the services of the Lord’s day, the importance of public prayer can hardly be overestimated. This, it is often said, is the weak point in the worship service.
It is probably true that there are more good preachers than good prayers. The main reason for this is that the minister devotes a great part of the labor of the week to the preparation of the sermon and not a thought to his prayers. It is no wonder, therefore, that the one should be better than the other.
The situation can be remedied by keeping the requisites of edifying public prayer in view:
1) The officiating minister should have a truly devout spirit; the feelings and desires of which the prayers are the utterance should be in exercise of his own heart.
2) His mind and memory should be well stored with the thoughts and language of Scripture. Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Their utterances, whether in adoration, thanksgiving, confession, or supplication, were controlled by the Spirit of God. Hence they express the mind of the Spirit; they are the most appropriate vehicles for the expression of those feelings and desires which the Spirit awakens in the minds of God’s people. No prayers, therefore, are more edifying, other things being equal, than those which abound in appropriate use of Scriptural language.
3) The prayer should be well ordered so as to embrace all the proper parts and topics of prayer in due proportion. This will prevent its being rambling, diffuse, or repetitious.
4) It should also be suited to the occassion, whether that be the ordinary service of the Lord’s day, or the administration of the sacraments, or the special service on days of thanksgiving or of fasting and humiliation.
5) It is hardly necessary to say that the language employed should be simple, solemn, and correct.
6) The prayers should be short. Undue length in this service is generally due to useless repetitions.