There are many things in church life that happen without much thought ever being given to them. One of those things is closing in prayer at the end of a service.
Let me say first of all that it does seem to be an eminently reasonable thing to close a church service in prayer to the LORD. When you have met together to worship the LORD, and know encounters with Him through the preaching of His Word, committing all to Him in prayer is appropriate. However, this “closing in prayer” is often done with little forethought. Here are some of the ways in which closing in prayer happens:-
- “Phew I am glad that’s all over”. Such a prayer is quite brief and gives the impression that it is a relief that the event is over. This type of prayer is likely to come from one who is not very experienced in leading a service and/or preaching and has a great sense of relief to have got through the ordeal. It can also happen when everything has gone on far too long and the service needs to be concluded as soon as possible.
- Continuing the sermon. This takes the form of either a re-preach of certain elements of the sermon or starting off with a fresh wind. Generally, it is completely inappropriate because you are not preaching, but praying.
- It has got to be a certain length. Here the presumption is that the prayer is not a proper prayer unless it is of a certain length and so the prayer rather aimlessly occupies the time.
So here are some thoughts about what should happen:-
- Remember that you are seeking to conclude so as to bring the whole congregation into the presence of God.
- Remember that the sermon has likely just been preached. You want to conduct the time so that the people are left considering how the LORD has worked in their hearts through His Word. You do not want the Word to fall to the ground and be forgotten. If you believe that the living LORD speaks through His Word then act as if this is true.
- It may be appropriate to have a time of quiet so that people can consider their situation before the LORD.
- A benediction may be appropriate to send people out with an affirmation of the LORD being with them and upon them.