Sooy serves as an associate editor for the Worldview Church. For an extended introduction, visit www.marksooy.com.
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)
The stylistic differences in corporate worship abound in today’s church. Although more modern forms of music have made inroads into the church setting, this has not necessarily led to the abandonment of liturgical forms, by which I mean the overall structure of the worship service. For example, many church traditions refer to the main pastor as the “Worship Leader.” Although others might lead songs, say prayers, or read from Scripture, in this view the overall responsibility for leading the worship service is with the pastor. It is the role of the pastor to plan and oversee all elements of public worship. On the other hand, many churches have an individual designated as the “Worship Leader” who does little speaking in front of the congregation (such as a pastor would do), but is considered the one responsible for constructing the “worship” elements of the service including music, readings, drama, etc.
The common idea is that corporate worship is dependent upon leadership. With this in mind, some of my recent reading has reminded me once again of the importance of being dependent upon God in our leadership of worship. We must be ready and willing for the Holy Spirit to move and guide us in all aspects of planning, rehearsing and ultimately performing the various aspects of a worship service.
That Jesus knew this was apparent. Our passage (above) notes that Jesus spent hours in communion with the Father. This particular passage refers to the night prior to His appointing of the Twelve Apostles is an illustration of the importance of prayer in making important decisions. Yet, in the same way, Jesus often slipped away to pray as part of His regular pattern of ministry. It is obvious that His ministry thrived because He was intimately connected to the Father by prayer.
There are many faithful saints who have recognized the importance of prayer in ministry, and I share the following quotes from just two men who saw the results of prayer in their own lives. Although these quotes refer to the pulpit, or to preaching, or to the preacher, I would like to suggest that as our modern churches have developed a wider presence of responsible leaders in front of the congregation, that these words apply to the pastor and the worship leader equally.
If you are a leader of a congregation from week to week, place yourself into these quotes.
A.W. Tozer, with his usual laser-like insights, reminds us that our effectiveness before the church on the platform is dependent upon our effectiveness with God in prayer. He wrote:
“No man should stand before an audience who has not first stood before God. Many hours of communion should precede one hour in the pulpit. The prayer chamber should be more familiar than the public platform. Schools teach everything about preaching except the important part, praying. The best any school can do is to recommend prayer and exhort to its practice. Praying itself must be the work of the individual. That it is the one religious work which gets done with the least enthusiasm cannot but be one of the tragedies of our times!”1
Another author, E.M. Bounds, had a significant influence on Jim Cymbala and the prayer ministry of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Page after page of his writings demonstrate not simply a philosophy of prayer and its importance, but he wrote from an intimate acquaintance of the reality of the power of prayer. Note the emphasis on the power that prayer brings to the leadership of the church:
“If prayer be left out of account, the preacher rises to no higher level than the lecturer, the politician, or the secular teacher. That which distinguishes him from all other public speakers is the fact of prayer. And as prayer deals with God, this means that the preacher has God with him, while other speakers do not need God with them to make their public messages effective.”2
He goes on to show the reality of the work of prayer. Bounds knows it to be a serious undertaking that must be cultivated and developed in private in order for ministry to be effective in public.
“The prayer which makes much of our preaching must itself be made much of. The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Serious praying will give serious weight to preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong, give it unction, and make it stick…It cannot be said with too much emphasis, the preacher musts be preeminently a man of prayer.”
I like that he connects our praying to our character. I think this is more than just style, but really speaks to our inner man. When we are dependent upon God for the power and effectiveness of our sermons, our music leading and even our public praying, then we are truly laying aside our pride in our own giftedness and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring His Word and truth to the hearts and minds of people. For this privilege, we should be thankful and grateful.
May we, as leaders, be preeminent people of prayer!
The Worldview Church’s Worship Arts editor, Mary Sooy, recommends “The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds On Prayer: Experiencing the Wonders of God through Prayer.” Purchases through the Colson Book Store help financially support this ministry.
Source and Recommended Reading
1Tozer quote from “Renewed Day by Day: A Daily Devotional” by A.W. Tozer, compiled by G.B. Smith (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1980), for January 10.
2Bounds quotes from “The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer” by E.M. Bounds (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), pages 413-414.