Meetings are necessary, and if planned well, they don’t have to be evil.
In the church setting, a common practice is praying at the beginning and end of the meeting. Sometimes this is to focus the attention of the gathered group on God, but unfortunately sometimes it is to give the symbolic nod to a spiritual element.
Prayer is an important part of life as a community. Prayer should be a guiding action, not a symbolic performance.
So how do you best integrate prayer into meetings in a purposeful, intentional way?
The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
– a portion of Psalm 145
1. Develop a form that you can always depend on. The Psalms are great as templates for powerful, purposeful prayers. My general form is: a word of thanks, acknowledgement of God’s power, and asking for guidance for meeting’s purpose.
2. Practice. Write them out, say them out loud, speak from the heart. In Protestant practice, prayer is often learned through experience. Listen to prayers, read other’s prayers, look for opportunities to pray, and gain confidence.
3. Trust in the Holy Spirit. Even with the charge to practice, prayer is not a performance. Prayer, especially on behalf of a gathered community, is an important responsibility. The words that you say are important, but they are not the end-all-be-all. Trust that even if you mess up all the words that the Spirit’s guidance will prevail and the intercession of the Spirit will clarify the words in the hearts of those gathered.