Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) is known as “the prince of preachers.” His writings (many of which consist of his sermons in written form) continue to be read with much benefit to this day.
In his classic book, Lectures To My Students (which is a manual of sorts on pastoral ministry, and on preaching in particular), he includes a chapter entitled, “Our Public Prayer.” This chapter is on the pastoral prayer in the context of public worship.
In this chapter Spurgeon makes a statement that should make us (especially those of us who are in the pastorate) sit up and take notice. He writes,
I will sooner yield up the sermon than the prayer. Thus much I have said in order to impress upon you that you must highly esteem public prayer, and seek of the Lord for the gifts and graces necessary to its right discharge. (p.59)
No less a preacher than Charles Spurgeon esteemed the pastoral prayer in worship so highly that if you gave him the choice between preaching or praying in the public worship of God’s people, he would choose the prayer (!).
How many of us (especially those of us who are ordained to the ministry of Word & Sacrament) esteem prayer that highly? We spend hours preparing to preach (and rightly so!), but do we give much thought & attention to our prayers? We should. It is a great honor and privilege to lead God’s people in prayer. The apostles concentrated their time & attention on two (2) things: The Word & Prayer (Acts 6:4), so we should do no less.
And how highly should we, as members of the church, esteem the pastoral prayer in worship? Do we look forward to it as we should? Do we value it as we should? Or do our churches neglect prayer during public worship? In far too many cases today it seems that pastoral prayer is increasingly being pushed to the periphery. This should not be the case.
May the Lord give us hearts that yearn to pray, not only in private, but also with His church in public worship together on the Lord’s Day.