How To Lead Prayer

So you have to lead prayer?  Relax!  The best prayer is the one you bring honestly no matter how it sounds.  Your stumbling prayer actually may be what people need to hear.  Leading prayer is not a performance.  It’s simply sharing your faith in a new way and inviting others into prayer.  Here are a few important things for prayer leaders to know…


What Prayer Leaders Must Know


Ancient Christians had a saying ‘Lex orandi lex credendi’.  It means ‘What is prayed is what is believed.’  So if you want to know what people really believe, listen to what they pray.  If their prayers are all about themselves, then that’s what they really believe in.  Our prayer reveals what we really believe.  And when we take on the role of ‘leading prayer’ we model for others how the prayer relationship works.

To lead people in prayer is a wonderful and humbling role.  Someone who ‘leads prayer’ for others helps guide them in their relationship with God.  So the most important thing to demonstrate is humbleness, simplicity, and openness before God who accepts us exactly as we are!

Jesus says,

“And when you pray do not keep on babbling like pagans,
for they think they will be heard because of their many words…”  – Matthew 6:7

This is what I want to model when I lead others in prayer…

  – That God is approachable, near, and not judging our performance.

  – That God does not need a certain form of language to hear us.

  – That God hears in grace, not because of any technique, method, or trick!

  – That God wants our heart.

  – That God welcomes simplicity and stumbling.

  – That God loves us enough to accept our brutal honesty.

  – That God is GRACE.

We want to model a grace-based simple relationship.  So when we lead we don’t need to ‘take less time’ in prayer.  But we may need to have less ‘words’!  We slow down a bit and keep it simple.  We provide space for worshippers to come with their heart and to pray with and around what we say.  We provide space to LISTEN because we believe prayer is a two-way experience!


How To Lead Prayer


  – Keep it simple

  – Leave space for the others we are leading to fill in the gaps

  – Not say everything that needs to be said!

  – Prepare a list or ask the people what to pray

  – Avoid writing down every word.  

Sometimes it is great to write down your prayers – especially if you’re using an ancient or well-know prayer.  But if you fall into this all the time then it may give the impression that God needs us to get it all ‘just right’.  In fact, if you’re really worried about what people think you’re forgetting that God accepts your humble words just as they are.  If you are worried that you will stumble, then before you pray tell people that you deliberately didn’t write it all down and you are honestly showing them your stumbling heart in front of others!


A Poem About Whole Prayer


Prayer is never just speaking. It is listening too. Our prayer leadership can model that. But to do so we need to say less and leave a bit more room for people to learn to listen. The following poem demonstrates what it’s about…


A chance to speak. Space to listen.
A measured pace.

Unafraid to pause…
Enjoying this time and enjoying the conversation.

Time to reflect.
Time to join in.
Simple trust.

Not long speeches which incessantly implore and ask a blessing from the Eternal God who is so great and hears our prayers and whose glory is unattainably great, so great in majesty that we come before him in awe and humble adoration, crying for mercy and saying things in a new old language of Zion’s holy verbiage. Not moving on to the next things before we even had time to digest and reflect on the last prayer. Not moving on to the next thing and (oh I didn’t know about that – that’s an interesting tidbit – isn’t it nice when they make the prayers newsy).

Not always asking the next thing and the next thing and proclaiming the interesting ministry moves and directions that our admirably organisational church has taken this week. Not wordy lengthy requests where we ask so specifically that it’s like ordering a hamburger with cheese, pickles, barbeque sauce but hold the olives God. I can’t keep up and gave up so I’m praying my own stuff anyway. Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

And space.
Beggars resting and relying on the master. Lord, our souls are restless
Until we rest in you.