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New Horizons

Helps for Worship #13: The Prayer of Invocation

William Shishko

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find." (Matt. 7:7)

There are so many prayers in a worship service: opening prayers, closing prayers, prayers of confession, the "pastoral prayer" (which can often become quite long!), prayer after the offering, prayer before the sermon, and then prayer after the sermon. Why so many prayers?

The fact that we take so much time for prayer during worship indicates the blunt truth that without the blessing of Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). It also indicates that we know that everything we have comes from God, so we are to be thankful in everything (Phil. 4:6).

We use the term prayer of invocation as a formal term to describe the first prayer in a Lord's Day worship service. (In our church, we usually call it the "prayer for God's blessing on our worship.") It may well be the most important prayer of any worship service.

In a prayer of invocation, we "invoke" (i.e., call upon, summon, beg) God to bless our time of worship. While God greets us as we gather (in the salutation), we do not presume upon his promised mercy to us. We praise God for who he is. (Notice that the elements of a prayer of invocation usually include things about which we have just sung or confessed.) We earnestly ask God to use the means of grace as means of grace to those who are present.

Among other things, we pray that:

  • Those who are dead in sin would be made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit, who uses the Word of God to bring new birth (1 Pet. 1:23).
  • Those who are already saved by grace would be built up in the true Christian faith (Jude 20).
  • The Holy Spirit would transform all who hear, so that we are not just hearers of the Word, but doers as well (James 1:22).
  • We would all be transformed by the renewing of our minds and by the "washing" done by the Word of God (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 5:26).

For Reflection

  1. Do you carefully follow the prayer of invocation?
  2. Do you earnestly desire what is asked for in that prayer?
  3. What would the results of worship be if the Lord did not answer those requests? (Think seriously about this one!)

The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. Reprinted from New Horizons, December 2006. First article in series. Next article. Index.

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