3 Tips for Leading Prayer

How to Lead While Others Pray

If the fear of public speaking is the general population’s greatest fear, fear of praying publicly may be its Christian equivalent. It is no wonder. In prayer together, the leader brings his brothers and sisters on a holy errand to the very throne room of almighty God. But the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7), and appreciating the enormity of the task can lead us to appreciate the enormity of our help. The Christian never prays alone, and the Christian never leads others in prayer by himself but always has the promised and sufficient help of the three: the listening Father, the mediating and interceding Son, and the helping Spirit. With this confidence, you can take steps (I’ll suggest three) to better lead others in prayer.

1. Be ready.

This has several aspects. Your readiness for public prayer always begins with a regular habit of private prayer. As Samuel Miller wrote in Thoughts on Public Prayer, “None can hope to attain excellence in the grace and gift of prayer in the public assembly, unless they abound in closet devotion, and in holy communion with God in secret.” [1] You also get ready by studying the prayers in Scripture and by paying attention to the public prayers of more mature believers. Too, you get ready to pray publicly by thinking ahead about what you might pray. Maybe a verse from your private Scripture reading or the application from a recent sermon, maybe a particular mission field or gospel opportunity, maybe a suffering friend or struggling church could become the subject of your prayer. Beyond that, you get ready to pray by resolving that you will pray if given opportunity. If you don’t intend to pray, you likely never will.

2. Be clear.

Your great aim as you lead others in prayer is that they would pray along with you. Jesus strongly warns against thoughtless rambling (Matt. 6:7) and hypocrisy and pride (Matt. 6:5). Instead, you should pray with simplicity and humility, encouraging others to join their hearts to yours. It is good to pick one or two items for prayer and pray thoroughly and briefly about them; this allows others to “Amen” your petitions and leaves time for others to lead. The words and sentences of your prayer should also be clear; use the language of Scripture informed by your natural way of speaking.

Praying Together

Megan Hill

Exploring the Bible’s teaching on the importance of corporate prayer, Praying Together lays a theological foundation and offers practical advice related to praying alongside other believers—in our families, churches, and communities.

3. Be corporate.

When you lead in public prayer, you are not praying for yourself only but also with others. You are asking them to join you as you approach God and to make your petitions their own. For this reason, you should try as much as possible to use corporate language (“we,” “us,” and “our”) and to pray for things that are common to everyone.

On a recent Wednesday night, my six-year-old son prayed aloud in the church prayer meeting. He prayed for missionaries to preach the gospel, for Muslims to trust in Christ for their salvation, and for the sick people in our congregation to get better. His prayer was sincere, simply expressed, and very brief. It was just what the church needed. Brothers and sisters, your most feeble prayer may unite the hearts of the church before God. By the help of the Spirit, you may remind them of forgotten truth, stir them to renewed desire, or move them to greater love. At the very least, your prayer will cause them to pray together. And that is just what they need.

This article is adapted from Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer by Megan Hill.

[1] Miller, Thoughts on Public Prayer, 260-261.

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