Why Do We Do What We Do In Worship? #3 - The Invocation and Other Prayers
The gospel shapes not only the individual life of a believer but also the corporate life of the church. In particular, the gospel should provide the structure for the corporate worship of the church. In view of the gospel being a message that calls for a response, the order of the worship at Grace and Peace can be understood as a dialogue. Put simply, during a worship service God speaks and His people listen and respond; God’s people speak and God listens and responds. It is through prayer (spoken or, as in the case of hymns, sung), that God’s gathered people speak and God listens.
The invocation is the opening prayer in the worship service and is a prayer which humbly, yet confidently (Hebrews 4:16) “invokes” the presence of God in worship. It is the congregation’s faith-filled response to the call to worship and is done on behalf of the congregation by the minister. This prayer should do several things: (1) exalt the nature, character and works of God; (2) communicate the church’s love for and utter dependence upon the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; (3) and humbly request God’s saving presence. The invocation is a request for God to enable His gathered people to worship Him as He desires and as He deserves, that being in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) and with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29)
After the collection of our gifts and offerings to God a prayer is made for the purpose of acknowledging that all that we have comes from God and asking God to bless and use the gifts of his people to extend His kingdom, to grow His church, and to support the work of His gospel locally and around the world.
Prior to the sermon a prayer of illumination is made asking that God would, by His Holy Spirit, open the Scriptures as well as the hearts and minds of those who will listen to the Word preached so that they would know what they are to believe about God and what duty God requires of his people. Following the sermon a prayer of application is made asking God to make the word effective in the lives of His people so that they would be doers of the word and not hearers only, not like those who look into a mirror and then walk away and immediately forget what they look like (James 1:22-24).
If, as the First (or Children’s) Catechism states, “Prayer is praising God, giving thanks for all his blessings, and asking him for the things he has promised in the Bible,” then a worship service should be filled with prayer. Rightly it has been said that prayerlessness is unbelief, and so there is no better way to express our trust in God and our absolute dependence upon Him than through a regular diet of prayer as individuals, together as families, and corporately as the church.