Some of our godly forefathers put as much effort into their prayers as they put into their sermons. That is — like as their sermons were a blend of written notes and Spirit-assisted extemporaneous / impromtu speaking — even so were their prayers.
Significantly, when "one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples" (Luke 11:1), the Great Shepherd of The Sheep did not correct John for trying to teach them. Neither did He say, "when you pray, just wing it." Could it be that in reaction to the dead, rote, lifeless, word-for-word repetitious prayers of Roman Catholicism, we have gone to another extreme(?).
The purpose of this page is to set forth the excellent example of the public prayers of the late L. R. Shelton Jr. (pastor of Mt. Zion Bible Church & founder of Chapel Library). Basically, they were all taken raw & as-is from his sermons (which we have elsewhere on our site, here). They have remarkable depth, unction, variety, and freshness.
Thankfully, it is becoming increasingly understood in our day that preaching is not just an isolated act — but the culminating event in our times of public worship. Even so are Pastor Shelton's prayers: they are not rote petitions isolated to asking for God's blessing upon the pending sermon — but beautiful & blended outpourings of worship, petition and praise to the Triune God.
Here is a question for any pastors who might be reading these lines: if we were to begin posting your public prayers, say – from your last dozen or so sermons – would the listeners desire to stop after the first 2 or 3 or 4? Would they be tempted to say: "same-ol' same-ol'" (?). The lively sheep under your care and ministry are continuing their acts of devotion and worship as you pray for the sermon: it would be helpful in achieving these ends if the prayers were lively, fresh, devotional, worshipful, and not as predictable as the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" are to a Roman Catholic. Please consider putting some more prayerful thought and effort into your public devotional acts of prayer, and listen to what is below for some good examples! Two Pastoral Theology lectures called Cultivating the Gift of Public Prayer are also available here.
Some have found it helpful to have a 3x5 card in their Bibles, with the headings: Prayer Meeting; Worship: Pastoral Prayer; Pre-Sermon / Post-Sermon, etc., so that as they read the Scriptures during the week, they can jot down passages which can become the foundational seed-beds for their public prayers. Some of our hymns are likewise treasure-troves along these lines (see numbers 256 - 267 in the blue Trinity Hymnal for example). This way, the prayers will move towards being as wide, fresh and broad as the Word of God itself.
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