By Mark Parker
Here are six ideas for intercessory prayer that you can use in your congregation. At our congregation we change these seasonally.
1.) Informal requests: I have everyone sit down at the beginning of our prayer time. We then conversationally ask people what we should pray about for the world, our community, the church, those who are sick and the saints. I write them all down. I then roll them into our prayers as we go through. It gets everyone participating without the pressure of just speaking up during the “offer your prayers silently or out loud,” which we also do at times.
2.) Prayer wall: We put up large pieces of paper along one wall of the sanctuary, each labeled with a different prayer category (the standard five listed above, but sometimes other categories suitable to the season/texts/current events). Pads of sticky notes are placed throughout the sanctuary. At the beginning of our prayer time, people bring up some prayers they have written down and place them on the appropriate piece of paper. We add more to the list each week. Then the assisting minister and I go down the wall, stopping at a piece of paper for each petition, and reading off a selection of those that are there.
3.) Thanksgivings/Intercessions: Along the lines of the prayers during Matins, I believe, instead of five breakdowns, we have just two. First, we give God thanks (very short petitions, five or so written down and others added out loud by members of the congregation extemporaneously); second, we ask for God’s help — again, five or so one-line petitions followed by space for others to add in more.
4.) Prayers written by the assisting minister: This was the tradition at my internship congregation in Philadelphia. It requires some training, but it allows the prayers to be authentic to the community as well as lifting up the praying voice and language of lay people.
5.) Prayer partners: During our prayer time, we have people sit next to someone they don’t know well. They share names, etc., and then a short story/prayer request related to the season/lessons of the day. They then pray for each other. When that’s slowed down and we’re just chatting, I interrupt with an “Amen” and then move into the passing of the peace.
6.) Neighborhood prayer wall (full credit to Kristi Kunkel). All through Lent we had a very large, white, wooden hanging-wall section attached to the outside wall of our building along the street. It said “Neighborhood Prayer Wall” and “Add your prayers here.” There were permanent markers attached to the wall. Every week it filled up with new prayer requests; every week we typed them up, printed them, and handed them out one or two at a time to everyone as they came into worship. During the prayers, we had everyone read aloud their neighbors’ prayers.