Recommendations for Improving Public Prayer


Let us make several recommendations for the improvement of public prayer.


First, pray in the language of Scripture.

Obviously this is our primary point. Listen to the voices from the past as they universally urge this practice.

Matthew Henry says, “I would advise that the sacred dialect be most used, and made familiar to us and others in our dealing about sacred things; that language Christian people are most accustomed to, most affected with, and will most readily agree to.”1 Patrick Fairbairn urges that the whole prayer “should be cast much in the mould of Scripture, and should be marked by a free use of its language.”2 R.L. Dabney says, “Above all should the minister enrich his prayers with the language of Scripture,” explaining,

Besides its inimitable beauty and simplicity, it is hallowed and sweet to every pious heart by a thousand associations. It satisfies the taste of all; its use effectually protects us against improprieties; it was doubtless given by the Holy Spirit to be a model for our devotions. Let it then abound in our prayers.3

Samuel Miller says,

One of the most essential excellencies in public prayer, and that which I feel constrained first of all, and above all to recommend, is, that it abound in the language of the word of God.4

Thomas Murphy says,

The prayer of the sanctuary should be thoroughly saturated with scriptural thought and expression. The language of the Bible is that which the Spirit prompted, and which must therefore be most in accordance with the mind of God. For the same reason it must be Bible language which is best calculated to express those devotional feelings which are the work of the Spirit in the heart.5

John Broadus counsels,

The minister should be consistently storing in his memory the more directly devotional expressions found everywhere in the Bible, and especially in the Psalms and Prophets, the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation…most of us greatly need in our prayers a larger and more varied infusion of Scripture language.6

But perhaps some are still unpersuaded, or are concerned that what worked in the past may not work today. Consider the following.

1. This is the pattern found in Scripture itself.

This is not merely the opinion of the Reformers or of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century evangelical theologians. It is also the pattern that we see in Scripture. The biblical saints learned God-pleasing devotional language from the Bible. They often used the language and themes of Scripture to interpret and express their experience. Consider for instance Moses seminal revelatory experience in Exodus 34:6,7.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

The echo of this revelation is heard on at least thirteen additional occasions in the Old Testament as later prophets learned from Moses how to praise God (Num. 14:18; 2 Ch. 30:9; Neh. 9:17,31; Ps. 103:8;111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:9; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; etc.). As we have seen Mary at the annunciation drew upon the Song of Hannah (Lk. 1:46-55, c.f., 1 Sam. 2:1-10; Solomon at the dedication of the temple incorporated Psalm 132:8,9 (2 Ch. 6:40-42); Jesus on the cross used the words of Psalms 22:1 and 31:5 (Mt. 27:46, Lk. 23:46); and the early church in the face of persecution cited Psalms 146 and 2 (Acts 4:24-30). In each case the language of Scripture provided the language for prayer.

Where then are we to learn the language of Christian devotion if not from Scripture? That this is less than self-evident to a tradition whose defining principle has been that worship must be regulated by God’s word is surprising indeed. Since our minds are “factories for idols,” borrowing Calvin’s phrase, we must be taught the language of prayer. Isn’t that the point of the disciples’ request of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)? Isn’t that indeed the point of the Book of Psalms? Were the Psalms not provided to teach the people of God the language of devotion with which God is pleased? If Jesus in the supreme crisis of his life drew upon the Psalter in order to understand and express His devotion and experience, then we can do no less.

2. There is a special efficacy in Scripture-based prayer.

It then follows that there is a special efficacy in Scripture-based prayer. No prayers more accurately reflect the will of God than those which use the language which God Himself puts into our mouths. No request is more sure to be granted than that which expresses what God Himself has promised to fulfill. No petition is more sure to be answered than that which pleads for that which God already commands.

Pray the promises and commands of Scripture. This principle is evident in James 1. Does God command that we be wise? Of course He does. It follows then that we should ask for it. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Similarly, pray the promise of 1 John 1:9, that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Claim the promise of John 3:16 in prayer, that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish.” Plead that the people of God will be holy even as God is holy (1 Pt. 1:16). Plead that they will love one another and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Faith comes by hearing the word of God doesn’t it (Rom. 10:17)? The word prayed in the hearing of the congregation will be efficacious to the salvation of their souls.

3. There is a special comfort in scriptural prayer.

There is a special comfort in scriptural prayer. It is one thing to pray, “Lord, please be with us through this day.” It is quite another to pray, “Lord remember your promise, ‘I will never leave nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). Can’t you sense the difference? It is one thing to pray, “As we begin our prayer, we thank you for the privilege of bringing our petitions to you.” It is quite another to pray, “We come at Your invitation, O Christ, for you have promised, ‘Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.’ And so we come asking, seeking, and knocking” (Matt. 7:7,8). It is one thing to pray in the midst of tragedy, “Lord we know that you have a plan.” That is a true, valid, and comforting thing to pray. Even so, it is quite another to pray, “O Lord, you have numbered the hairs upon our heads. You are working all things after the counsel of your will. Not even a sparrow may fall from a tree apart from you. You cause all things to work together for good for those who love you, and are called according to your purpose” (Matt. 10:29,30; Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28).

More effectively comfort the hearts of your people by echoing the promises of Scripture in your prayers.

4. Scriptural prayer reinforces the ministry of the word.

As noted above, one reason why previous generations of evangelicals were more biblically literate than ours is that there was more Bible content in their services than in ours. The word preached and the word prayed and the word sung were constantly reinforcing each other.

The romanticism of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries emptied our hymns of most of their biblical and theological content. As noted above, only fragments of scriptural expression remain in our songs. We’ve already commented on the state of preaching and praying. The irony that the churches that profess to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture make such little use of Scripture and are becoming increasingly ignorant of Scripture is bitter indeed.

What a difference it will make if you will call the people to worship with Scripture, invoke the presence of God with scriptural praise, sing a metrical Psalm, confess sins using Scripture language, read the Scripture, preach an expository sermon, sing a scriptural hymn, build your intercessions around the five categories found in Scripture, used by the early church, and revived by the Reformers, and conclude with a scriptural benediction.7 This done, Sunday morning and evening, fifty-two weeks a year, year after year will build a strong church, one characterized by scriptural literacy and spiritual maturity. If you worship in this way your growth may be slower than is acceptable to many. It may require that one take a longer view than is customary today. One may not gather large crowds overnight. But in the long run a church that builds a foundation like this on the words of Christ, will endure like a rock, and not be shaken.

Now we will look at how to become proficient in praying in the language of Scripture.

a. Study and use the prayers in Scripture.

Are there any better prayers of praise than those of David in 1 Chronicles 29 or the composite prayer of Paul in 1 Timothy? Listen to them:

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone. Now, therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name. (1 Chron. 29:11-13)

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. . . . He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Tim, 1:17; 6:15,16)

Are there any better prayers of confession than David’s Psalm 51, or Daniel’s in Daniel 9? Are there any better prayers of illumination than those of Psalm 43:3 and Ephesians 3:18-19?

O send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to Thy holy hill, and to Thy dwelling places. (Ps. 43:3)

May (we) be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that (we) may be filled up to all the fulness of God. (Eph. 3:18-19)

Are there any better prayers of intercession for the saints than Paul’s for the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Eph. 1:15-23; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-11)? The following is a partial list of the major prayers found in Scripture whose study will pay spiritual dividends:

  • Abraham – Genesis 18:23-33 (intercession)
  • Moses – Exodus 15:1-18 (praise); 32:11-14 and 33:12-17 (intercession); Numbers 11:10-15 (complaint); 14:11-19 (pleading)
  • Hannah – 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (praise)
  • David – II Samuel 7:18-29 (thanksgiving); I Chronicles 29:11-20 (praise)
  • Solomon – I Kings 3:6-9 (for wisdom); 8:22-53; 54-61 (praise); II Chronicles 6:14-42 (praise and petition)
  • Hezekiah – II Kings 19:14-19 (intercession)
  • Jeremiah – Jeremiah 32:16-25 (praise and questioning)
  • Ezra – Ezra 9:5-15 (confession)
  • Nehemiah -Nehemiah 9:5-27 (praise and petition)
  • Daniel – Daniel 9:1-19 (confession and petition)
  • Habakkuk – Habakkuk 1:12-17 (questioning)
  • Mary – Luke 1:46-55 (praise)
  • Zacharias – Luke 1:68-79 (praise)
  • Simeon – Luke 2:29-32 (praise)
  • Early Church – Acts 4:24-30 (praise and petition)
  • Paul – Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1:1-23; Philippians 1:9-11 (praise and petition)
  • Church Triumphant – Revelation 4:8-5:14 (praise)

b. Incorporate the language of Scripture in your prayers.

Not only pray the prayers of Scripture, but let both your terminology and content reflect Scripture’s terminology and content. Don’t just open the worship by praying whatever pops into your head. Pray, “O Lord we have come to worship and bow down, to kneel before You the Lord our Maker; for You are our God, and we are the people of Your pasture, the sheep of Your hand” (Ps. 95). Don’t just pray, “Lord save our covenant children.” Pray instead, “Lord remember your promise to be a God to us and to our children, and so save our covenant children.” Pray back to God His promises. Pray back to God His revelation of His own nature. Pray back to God those things that He requires of us in His word. For example, why not turn Ephesians 5:1-17 into a prayer:

We pray that we might be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us. We pray that immorality, and impurity, and greed might not be named among us; nor filthiness and silly talk, nor coarse jesting, nor anything else that is improper or not fitting. Help us to walk as children of light, in goodness, righteousness, and truth. Teach us what is pleasing to you. Use us to expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness. Guide us, that we might walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of our time, because the days are evil. Keep us from foolishness, and give us an understanding of your will. (Eph. 5:1-17)

Find key phrases and precious promises and turn them into prayer. There is almost no limit to what can be done. Even historical allusions can be profitably employed in prayer. Samuel Miller provides several examples:

In a time of struggle for the church:

O Thou who didst of old, deliver thy covenant people from the bondage of Egypt, and didst open a way through the sea for them to pass in safety; so may it please thee now to deliver thy afflicted and struggling Church, to disappoint those who seek her hurt, to sanctify to her all her troubles, and bring her out of them all with increasing purity, and peace, and joy.8

To cry for freedom from the corruption of sin:

We are by nature carnal, sold under sin; but we rejoice to know that, as thou didst once bring thy people out of bondage, and make them the Lord’s freemen in their own land; so thou hast promised, by the Lord Jesus Christ, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are the bond slaves of Satan. We rejoice to read in thy word, that, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of man has been lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but obtain eternal life.9

Especially helpful in the study of prayer in addition to the older volumes already cited are Richard L. Pratt’s Pray With Your Eyes Open,10 W. Graham Scroggie’s Paul’s Prison Prayers,11 Donald Cogan’s The Prayers of the New Testament,12 and Herbert Lockyer’s All the Prayers of the Bible.13 Better yet, get a copy of Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer and read it over and over again.


Second, we recommend for the improvement of public prayers that they should be planned. This is obviously necessary if the preceding point is to be realized, if you are to pray the actual terminology of the Bible. But it is necessary for other reasons as well. It is sad to hear the careless language, the imprecision, and the incoherence of many pulpit prayers today. I suspect, though I cannot prove, that many ministers give no thought whatsoever to what they intend to pray beforehand. Willimon complains that “Many of our pastoral prayers are a maze of poorly thought out, confusing cliches, hackneyed expressions, shallow constructions, and formalized, impersonal ramblings.”14

All of the old commentators are of one mind on the need of planning public prayers. One ought no more pray without preparation than preach. Fairbairn says, “I would earnestly advise a certain measure of special preparation for the devotional work of the sanctuary.”15 He encourages the use of an outline, and even the practice of writing out one’s prayers, not in order to read them, but in order to organize one’s thoughts. W.G.T. Shedd says the minister “ought to study method in prayer, and observe it. A prayer should have a plan as much as a sermon.”16 He continues,

In the recoil from the formalism of written and read prayers, Protestants have not paid sufficient attention to an orderly and symmetrical structure in public supplications. Extemporaneous prayer, like extemporaneous preaching, is too often the product of the single instant, instead of devout reflection and premeditation. It might, at first glance, seem that premeditation and supplication are incongruous conceptions; that prayer must be a gush of feeling, without distinct reflection. This is an error. No man, no creature, can pray well without knowing what he is praying for, and whom he is praying to. Everything in prayer, and especially in public prayer, ought to be well considered and well weighed.17

R.L. Dabney writes, “I deem that the minister is as much bound to prepare himself for praying in public as for preaching. The negligence with which many preachers leave their prayers to accident, while they lay out all their strength on their sermons, is most painfully suggestive of unbelief toward God and indifference to the edification of their brethren.” He labels the idea that one should trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit in prayer rather than prepare ahead of time “a remnant of fanatical enthusiasm.” “To speak for God to men is a sacred and responsible task. To speak for men to God is not less responsible, and is more solemn . . . The young minister should no more venture into the pulpit with an impromptu prayer, than with an impromptu sermon.”18

Both Dabney and Miller (like Murphy) encourage the discipline of what they call “devotional composition,” “not so much to recite these written prayers in the pulpit,” explains Dabney, “as to train his own taste, and to gather a store of devotional language.”19 Among modern writers Robert Rayburn agrees: “If a minister wishes to be effective in leading the prayers of his congregation he must prepare for his public prayers.”20 Now, of course, when we argue that one should prepare for prayer and study to lead in public prayer, we are not saying that the prayer should be read aloud from a manuscript. Free prayer, rich Scriptural free prayer, is too valuable a commodity to be lost to the church. It is studied prayer, not read prayer that we are advocating here.

Let us, then, make a few recommendations about the prayers which you plan.

1. Plan so as to offer brief prayers.

Do not try the patience of your people by rambling on and on. Even the nineteenth century writers recommend brevity. Murphy recommends that the main prayer should be five minutes, or no more than eight. Samuel Miller complains of the “excessive length” of some prayers.21 Careful planning will help avoid the “verbiage and repetition” about which Shedd complains.22 It will also guard against the frequent and mechanical repetition of favorite phrases, titles of God, and any other formula of words, of which Dabney complains.23 He writes, “This mechanical phrase is obnoxious to every charge of formalism, monotony and lack of appropriate variety, which we lodge against an unchangeable liturgy, while it has none of its literary merit and dignified and tender associations.”24 Wandering prayers, meandering at length here, there, and everywhere, will also be corrected by planning.

2. Plan so as not to preach.

Dabney warns of the “painful absurdity in our going about formally to instruct God of his doctrinal truth,” or our seeming “to preach to God instead of praying to him.”25 Shedd warns of “didactically discoursing in prayer.”26 Murphy calls it “a great abuse of public prayer to use it for preaching to the audience or for rebuking them, or even, as is often done, for giving information to the Lord.”27 You’ve all heard ministers pray, “Lord, we thank you for the prayer meeting which is held in the chapel on Wednesday evening at seven o’clock, just after the fellowship supper and just before choir rehearsal. And we know that you want all your people to come unless providentially hindered. Help us to make it a priority.” This is “a great abuse of public prayer” (not to mention silly), and must be avoided.

3. Plan so as to use appropriate terminology.

Choose suitable language in addressing the almighty. The old authors denounce, with surprising vehemence, the use of over-familiar language in prayer. “Familiarity is the worst of faults in prayer,” says Shedd.28 Dabney heaps scorn on “Half-educated or spiritually proud men” who “frequently indulge in an indecent familiarity with the Most High, under the pretense of filial nearness and importunity.”29 Spurgeon counsels that one avoid “an unhallowed and sickening superabundance of endearing words.” He says, “When ‘Dear Lord,’ and ‘Blessed Lord,’ and ‘Sweet Lord,’ come over and over again as vain repetitions, they are among the worst of blots.” He wishes that “in some way or other,” those who indulge such “fond and familiar expressions,” could come “to a better understanding of the true relation existing between man and God.”30 He counsels that one be “scrupulously reverent” in one’s language.31


It remains for us now to illustrate the way in which such prayers are actually prayed, and apply the above principles to the five major prayers of the worship service. As you invoke the presence of God, fill your praise with the language of Scripture. Your congregation needs to hear you humbly exalting the greatness and majesty of God. Remember that they are likely to learn how to pray in large part from listening to their minister. Study the great prayers of praise and glean from the Psalms their rich devotional expressions. Week by week provide for them a vision of the power and glory and goodness of the God whom they worship, a God for whom nothing is impossible, a God who can do all things, and God to whom homage and adoration is due.

As you move on to the prayer of confession, use the deep, prolonged, detailed language of Scripture. Your people come to church each week bruised and battered by sin. They come burdened with guilt, knowing something of what they ought to be and their failure. Let them hear you humbly grieving for sin on their behalf as you confess idolatry, greed, covetousness, pride, lust, selfishness, jealousy, envy and gossip. Confess that you’ve not loved God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and not loved your neighbor as yourself. Use, for example, the language of David and confess,

I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

And then begin to plead with David,

Be gracious to us, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of your compassion blot out our transgressions. Wash us thoroughly from our iniquity, and cleanse us from our sin. Purify us with hyssop, and we shall be clean; wash us and we shall be whiter than snow. Hide your face from our sins, and blot out all our iniquities. Deliver us from blood guiltiness, O God, the God of our salvation. Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain us with a willing spirit. O Lord, open our lips, that our mouth may declare your praise (Ps. 51).

Your people are struggling to believe the gospel and struggling to experience forgiveness. They may have confessed their sin privately, and yet they have not found relief. Often the problem is that they have not gone deeply enough. Their brokenness has been healed superficially with flippant promises that “’All is well, all is well’; but there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11). They need to hear you earnestly acknowledging and grieving sin and claiming the promises of God on their behalf. There was a time I hated using the Thomas Cranmer’s Prayer Book. Eventually I learned to love it, and even to look forward to going to chapel each day in no small part so that I could pray Cranmer’s beautiful general confession. I found it “therapeutic,” though I hesitate to use the word, to deal with God with my sins in corporate worship each day.

This is what people need to do in our worship. They need to deal with God. You need to lead them there with praise and then confession. Let them hear you conclude your confession with a rehearsal of the promises of God. Give thanks for the promise of 1 John 1:9, that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Give thanks that Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Pet. 2:24), that “He gave His life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28), that though He knew no sin He became sin “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Give thanks that we now have “no condemnation” and “peace with God” in Christ (Rom. 8:1, 5:1). Even pray for them the extended promises of Psalm 103:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Ps. 103:8, 10-12).

As you move into intercessions, plead for the sanctification of your people, let them hear compassion and urgency in your voice as you pray that the ideals of the Christian life might be realized in their lives. They need to hear you praying week after week that they might be holy even as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:15,16), that they might be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love (Eph. 5:1ff), and conformed to the image of Christ, bearing the fruit of Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23). Let them hear you pleading that they’ll not love the world nor the things of the world, and that they’ll not be seduced by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life (1 Jn. 2:15, 16).

Move on then into four other areas of intercession (mentioned above) found in Scripture, used by the early church, and revived by the Reformers. Pray for the 1) civil authorities; 2) the Christian ministry (Mt. 9:36-38) (1 Tim. 2:1,2); 3); the salvation of all men (1 Tim. 2:1,3-4); and 4) the afflicted (2 Cor. 1:3,4,11; Jas. 5:13-18).32 They need to hear the breadth of your prayers. They need to hear your prayers circle the globe as you pray for the progress of Christian missions, for ministers and missionaries, for the nation, and for the needy.

What about the prayer of illumination? Doesn’t the congregation need to be reminded that “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14)? Won’t your people benefit from a weekly reminder that we are dependent upon the Holy Spirit if we are ever to understand the word of God? Pray for illumination before you read Scripture or before you preach. Pray that eyes will be opened, (Ps. 119:18) that ears will be unstopped, that stony hearts will be replaced with hearts of flesh, that stiff-necks will be loosened. Pray that the eyes of the heart might be enlightened (Eph. 3:18), that the Lord might teach us His truth (Ps. 86:11,12), and give us understanding (Ps. 119:33).

Finally, they need to hear you pray the blessing of God upon them. Bless them with the Apostolic benediction (2 Cor. 13:14) or the Aaronic (Num. 6:24-26) or some other (e.g. Heb. 13:20-21). Let them leave with one of these scriptural blessings ringing in their ears. Will that not encourage them as they leave? Does this not conclude the service on the gospel’s optimistic note?

Can you see now why we have said that the minister needs to lead in prayer? Who in the congregation is trained to pray in this manner? Who is most aware of the pastoral needs of the congregation? Who has been set apart for three years of biblical and theological education? Who spends extended time each day in the study of Scripture? Who labors daily on his knees in private prayer for the souls of the saints? Who consequently is capable of praying in the rich devotional language of Scripture as well as in a manner that is theologically sound?

Public prayer is not merely a matter of you or anyone else standing up and praying off the top of your heads. The first thing into most of our minds, as Spurgeon once said, is “mere froth.” Even as it makes sense to have the minister preach and administer the sacraments, it makes sense to have him pray. The prayers that we envision are those offered by a man called by God, who saturates his mind with the word of God, and spends hours each week on his knees before God. Even as the church has deemed it wise to apply the New Testament admonitions to “guard the gospel” by entrusting its proclamation through word and sacrament only to those ordained to do so, so also it is both pastorally and theologically wise to leave leadership in prayer in the hands of the minister.

Have you been giving to public prayer the attention it deserves? Do you see how public prayer is a means of grace that builds the church? Begin now to practice “studied prayer,” as the Puritans called it, or to employ Watts’ term, “conceived prayer.” Plan your prayers, fill them with scriptural language and allusions, and watch the sanctifying impact that they make upon the congregation multiply to the glory of God.

* * * * *

Editor’s note: This article has been excerpted from chapter 7, “Reading and Praying the Bible in Corporate Worship,” in Give Praise to God: A vision for Reforming Worship, ed. Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III (P&R, 2003).

1 Matthew Henry, A Method for Prayer, edited by J. Ligon Duncan III (Reformed Academic Press), xiv.

2Patrick Fairbairn, Pastoral Theology (1875; repr. Old Paths, 1992), 317.

3Robert Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric (1870; repr. Banner of Truth, 1979), 358

4Samuel Miller, Thoughts on Public Prayer, (1849; repr. Sprinkle, 1985), 217.

5Thomas Murphy, Pastoral Theology (1877; repr. Old Paths, 1996), 213.

6John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (rev. ed. 1870; repr. Broadman 1944), 368-69.

7See Terry Johnson, Leading in Worship (Oak Ridge, TN: Covenant Foundation, 1996), 10 n. 15, 34 n. 4, and 52-54.

8Miller, Public Prayer, 277.

9Ibid., 277-8.

10(Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1987).

11(1921, rprt.; Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1981).

12(New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1967).

13(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959). Thankfully while books treating public prayers have neglected the use of Scripture-language, the books on private prayer have not. Pratt’s is especially good in this respect.

14Willimon, Preaching and Leading Worship (Westminster, 1984), 44.

15Murphy, Pastoral Theology, 318.

16W. G. T. Shedd, Homiletics and Pastoral Theology (1867; repr. Banner of Truth 1965), 271.


18Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric, 346-7, 360.

19Ibid., 360; see also Miller,Public Prayer, 288ff.

20Robert Rayburn, O Come Let Us Worship (Baker, 1980), 199.

21Miller, Public Prayer, 187.

22Shedd, Homiletics, 272-3.

23Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric, 347-8.

24Ibid., 348.

25Ibid., 355.

26Shedd, Homiletics, 273.

27Murphy, Pastoral Theology, 211-212.

28Shedd, Homiletics, 273.

29Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric, 349.

30Spurgeon, Lectures, 57.

31Ibid., 58.

32Terry Johnson, Leading in Worship (Covenant Foundation, 1996), 10, n. 15; 34, n. 4;52-54.

Ligon Duncan

Ligon Duncan is the chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. You can find him on Twitter at @LigonDuncan.

Terry Johnson

Terry Johnson is the senior minster of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia.

9Marks articles are made possible by readers like you. Donate Today.