Saturday, July 25, 2009

Leading in Prayer - Invocations

One of the privileges I have as a probationer in the ministry is to assist in leading worship. One of the most overlooked portions in many worship services today is the practice of prayer. This is a sad development. During the Reformation of the sixteenth century, one of the priorities recovered in the reformation of worship was prayer. As Jon Payne has recently said, "The worship of God in the Protestant and Reformed tradition has always stressed the centrality of reverent, biblically-informed, Trinitarian, Spirit-filled, Christ-mediated prayer."

Given the importance of prayer and that prayer is quickly becoming a lost art, learning to pray, and more importantly, learning to lead in prayer is of utmost importance. One great resource that I have been using is Leading in Prayer by Hughes Oliphint Old.

Old provides brief instruction and many examples of the different prayers that are typically found in a Reformed worship service. Worship is a meeting between God and his covenant people, a meeting that is initiated by God, and as such, the service is a dialogue between God and his church. God initiates the conversation with the "call to worship," in which God invites his people to ascend the hill of the Lord to be assembled in his presence. The first response, or prayer, from the people to God, then, is what is called the invocation. In the invocation, the church calls upon the name of their God for his help to assist them in their privilege and grand task of serving him in worship.

According to Old, there are six basic elements that make up the literary form of the invocation.
1. Call on the name of God. Old reminds us that it is important to use names that God has revealed in the Bible. God is not a God of a thousand names and it is his perogative to reveal how he is to be addressed. "The inventing of glorious names for God is not regarded as an open field for human creativity."

2. Pray in Christ's name. We can only come to God, even in response to his invitation, in the merits of the perfect mediation of our heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ.

3. Hallow God's name. There are two basic ways to hallow, or honor, God's name. First, we are to proclaim God's attributes. Second, we are to make known his deeds of creation and redemption.

4. Claim God as our God.

5. Petition that worship be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

6. Conclude with Trinitarian doxology.
At the most basic level, the invocation says, "Father, hear us in the name of your Son." Although we can tend to think of this prayer simply as an opening prayer, or way to get things started, the reality is, this prayer is theologically rich, and may I say, mind-blowing. At the heart of this prayer is the basis by which one approaches God - and that basis is the Trinitarian relationship enjoyed between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Old says, "Christian worship has its logic in the doctrine of the Trinity." The unity and fellowship of the Trinity is not static, but is overflowing and expressive of how each member seeks to glorify the other - and as they do so, the church is the beneficiary by being brought into that fellowship. The invocation is our plea to God for assistance to be received into this fellowship.

Given the importance of this prayer, I have been preparing my Invocations beforehand in order to help me develop the art of prayer. Here are my Invoations along with their corresponding Calls to Worship for tomorrow:

Call to Worship:

Let men bless themselves by him; let all nations call him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.

Psalm 72.17b-19

Invocation:

LORD God of Israel and Father of Jesus Christ your royal son, our King, you alone are our God and the wonder worker of your creation. From you we have come into being and to you we return in the end. And we praise your name that even as the whole earth is filled with your glory, you fill us with the glory of heaven itself as you recreate us according to the righteousness of our King. O that you might grant to us to ascend your hill, united in Christ and empowered by your Holy Spirit, that we may serve you and bless your name in the singing of our hymns and psalms, in the prayers cast at your feet and in receiving your word to the nourishment of our souls. It is into your hands that we place ourselves and our worship, humbly asking you to glorify yourself. For to you be all service, blessing and adoration, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Would you receive us, then, into your presence through the name of your royal son, Jesus our Christ, who taught us to pray, (Lord's Prayer).


Call to Worship:

How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Psalm 84.1-2; 10

Invocation:

O LORD God of hosts, fulfill the longings of our souls for your glory and strengthen our hearts in which the highways to Zion bring us home to dwell in your house, for a day in your courts are better than a thousand elsewhere. For you alone turn our wilderness into a place of springs to quench our parched souls; you alone are our shield who protects us from the dangers of the Valley of Baca. Look on the face of your anointed that we might enter now into your courts, and be received in the house of our God. Extend the scepter of your grace to us who trust in you and bless the ministry of your people as we worship you, extolling the name of our triune God in our corporate singing, confession, prayers and reception of your word. Renew us in the beauty of holiness that we may be radiant in your presence. For to you belong all glory, laud and honor, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons and one God, world without end. Amen.



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