In a typical Southern Baptist church–if there is any such animal!–the pastor and other ministers handle most of the pulpit duties. The times when a deacon can be counted on to lead in public prayer is more likely to come before the offering and in the Lord’s Supper.
When a layman approaches the pulpit to lead in prayer, there is no telling what will happen then. If it’s true that most pastors have never had training in public praying, it’s ten times as sure that the laypeople haven’t.
What we get when the typical layman comes to the microphone to lead a prayer is some or all of the following:
–trite statements he has heard other people pray again and again
–awkward attempts to be genuine and fresh
–awkward attempts to admonish the congregation about some issue, usually their laxity in giving
–a total unawareness of the time element. He/she may be too brief or go on and on and on.
The typical layman feels out of place doing this. There are exceptions, thankfully, and some wonderful ones. But in most churches, the deacons and other lay leadership would rather take a beating than to pray in public.
A pastor friend announced to his deacons that they would no longer be leading offertory prayers. He expected resistance and was prepared to respond to it. Instead, without exception, they cheered the news. “They felt like a burden had been lifted off their shoulders,” he said.
I understand that. But I regret it. In truth, this could be a wonderful time for a man or woman of the Lord to render service of an unusual nature to the congregation and indirectly to the Lord.
Here are ten suggestions on how any of us–preachers, staffers, deacons, laity–can improve our public prayers.