Leading worship

What follow is intended to be a help in leading corporate services of worship. There are only four key elements that seem required biblically: Praising, praying, the reading and preaching of scripture, and communion. However, numerous other elements can be included that bring these things home. If you click on the grey titles below you will access examples I regularly us.

For a briefing and checklist on the how to of leading gatherings, see here.

Opening doxology and call to worship.
These begin reminding the congregation of God's character and work as the reason for their praise, or hearing his call to come and worship him.

Prayer of invocation.
The doxology or call to worship might be included in or followed by a "prayer of invocation" that praises God as creator and redeemer, acknowledges we come close only by his grace in Christ, and that asks him to be at work in our hearts so that all we do is acceptable to him and edifying to us. The invocation may also include a prayer of confession for sin if one isn't included later. Although examples are included, I would recommend prayerfully scripting an entire prayer of invocation tailored to your service so that it rightly sets the context for it.

The Lord's Prayer.
By urging prayer that our Father "give us this day our daily bread," Jesus implies this is a prayer to be said every day. And it has been said in corprate gatherings ever since the times of the first Christians. It could open the service as something familiar to guests, and be followed by the "prayer of invocation" as above. It could be used as a structure for intercessions, or conclude them. Alternatively, it could come near the end of the service as a way of committing oneselves to the Lord for the coming week.

Trustworthy sayings.
Found in the NT, these seem to have been an early form of declaration. They might be said together at any point in a service.

Corporate confession has biblical precedent both in Nehemiah's day (Nehemiah 8-9) and in the Lord's Prayer that asks "forgive us our sins". It commonly contains three aspects.

1. The introduction.
These are words said by the leader or taken from the Bible that help the hearer reflect on how they have sinned and their need of God's merrcy.

2. The prayer.
Prayers that have common usuage throughout the historical church can be helpful for continuity, and usuing only a small variety of prayers useful for people getting to know and truly feel the import of their words. A prayer could be crafted from pertinent Bible verses.

3. The assurance.
Bible verses can be used to affirm that all who truly repent can be confident of God's forgiveness.

General prayers.
Paul writes to Timothy about the importance of intercessions. These could be drafted in a way that elaborates on the phrases of the Lord's Prayer, or prays in decreasing circles for the world, the nation, the church and one's prarticular church. I've attached some written prayers that might on occasion prove useful. We shouldn't think including such set prayers is somehow less spiritual. After all, songs and hymns are scripted and so set. However, if they are old prayers it is important the language is updated so that they are understood.

Prayers around the sermon.
A "prayer for illumination" is commonly said before the readings and sermon asking the Lord to open and enlighten hearts and minds. Following the sermon an extended prayer, praying its sentiments home is appropriate by the preacher - especially if a lay person has led the intercessions.

Scriptural songs.
Alongside the usual songs and psalms, which might be sung, there are other scriptural songs of rich gospel truth that it is a shame for the church not to be edified by. They could be said by the leader, by the congregation, or by both antiphonally.

Closing doxologies or blessings.
One that fits the theme of the service can be said to conclude. The blessing is often called the "benediction."

The Lord's Supper.
This generally has up to five elements.

1. Explanation and warning.
Explanation is given as to who should partake and how they might do it. But warning may also be given that those who are not truly repentant should not receive because this could be to eat and drink judgment upon themselves. We usually follow this with the saying of a Creed or statement of belief from scripture as a way of affirming the faith that unites us with Christ and his people, and an acclamation from the book of Revelation as a way of acknowledging we worship alongside all in heaven, and in the supper have a foretaste of the coming kingdom.

2. Words of institution.
Take from Jesus or Paul these remind us that communion is instituted by Christ and that we take and eat at his command.

3. Prayer of thanksgiving.
Just as Jesus gave thanks, so the minister gives thanks for the bread and wine, together with all they symbolise, also praying that the congregation would come rightly and benefit accordingly. Although sample prayers are included, I think this is best prayerfully scripted in the light of the service theme.

4. Words of invitation.
These are sometimes said to exhort believers with weak conciences not to stay away, but to come on the promise of grace, and take and eat through faith.

5. Post communion prayer.
This is a prayer of response, thanking God for his grace received through faith, and praying people would respond by living for him. As the service usually ends that way, this is more optional and could come as part of the final prayer of the service.