St Andrews Church Walthamstow
Leading Intercessions: A Practical Guide
What are intercessions?
The dictionary definition of intercessory prayer is, ‘the action of saying a prayer on behalf of another’. When we lead intercessions, we are leading people in prayer – not praying in front of them – and not delivering notices, party political broadcasts or sermons.
Why Intercessions? All Christians are called to share in the ministry of Christ’s intercession for the world.
Why pray? Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35). They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42) Jesus said, ‘when you pray…’ Luke 11:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2).
The aim of intercessions within our services
• To lead the congregation in prayer for other people and for situations.
• To pray for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done and for our ‘daily bread’ (Matthew 6:9-13).
• To pray for everyone, especially those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness – so that all people will be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
• To model intercessory prayer, so that what we do in our services becomes part of our everyday lives.
They are not the place for
• Confession or meditation
• Telling God (or the congregation) what is happening • Telling people what God thinks
• Telling people what you think about the latest hot topic.
When you have agreed to do the intercessions
• Be gracious to let someone know or arrange a swap if you are no longer available.
• Prepare the intercessions in good time before Sunday. Pray them yourself before the service.
• Time yourself in advance, reading at ‘prayer speed’. Intercessions should not be longer than 4-5 minutes.
• Arrive in church at least 15 minutes before the service begins as we normally pray together before the service.
• Ask for honest feedback from someone you trust or the service leader.
What follows are notes to help and guide you in your preparation to deliver intercessions. What matters is that you pray for God’s guidance before you start writing or note-taking.
What are we called to pray for? We are called to pray for the world, the local community, the Church and individuals.
The usual pattern is to pray for:
1. The Church.
2. The world.
3. The local community.
4. Those in need.
Not everything has to be covered every time! And these topics will often be covered in a litany of short prayers, with congregational responses in between and one ‘Amen’ at the end. This creates a predictable rhythm, which helps the congregation to engage with the prayers.
Some examples of what to pray
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
The emphasis is that we pray for everyone everywhere; leaders of the nations, and the people of those nations.
• For peace
• For people who are victims of environmental disaster, economic problems, injustice, prisoners of conscience.
• For those who have to take decisions that affect our lives – political and national leaders, business leaders, media leaders.
• Praying for the head of state. We pray for an individual, using that individual as a way of praying in a specific way for all the people who they represent (e.g. prayer for the Queen, in her role as head of state – what we pray for her, we pray for the people of this country).
THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
We have a particular responsibility for our town and parish.
• Local community – people in positions of responsibility (politicians), business leaders, media, police, families, couples, singles, younger people, older people (and residential homes).
• People who work in local institutions: businesses, hospitals, local surgeries, schools.
It helps if you are alert to latest news from the papers or other media.
THE CHURCH (the people of God)
• International: Church leaders (of different denominations), overseas churches, churches facing persecution, mission partners.
• National: archbishops, unity, synods, witness
• Local: Our own bishops (Bishop Guli, the new Bishop of Chelmsford) – as we pray for them, we pray for the diocese. Different church organisations, church leaders, youth organisations, youth leaders.
• Our Parish: our congregation, Junior church, the local community. All the groups using our church hall, the weekly activities or specific events we run at the church and the people who lead them and those who attend – e.g. the drop in group, weekly meeting - the streamed weekly prayers on Facebook.
Remember, if we do not pray specific prayers we cannot expect specific answers.
• Individuals with a specific task – eg. clergy, church wardens, and all the ministry team and anyone with specific tasks.
• Individuals in need (some who may have asked specifically to be mentioned in church prayers – it is important to first make sure that they are happy to have their names mentioned in public prayers).
• Those who are bereaved (again make sure we have their permission to mention their names).
Caution: The above list of things to pray for is just a guide, it’s not exhaustive – you may have your own list from what is current, focus on one or two things, do not give a long list.
How do I know what’s important to pray for this week?
• What is big this coming week? (eg. Prayer for Christian unity, Elections and so forth)
• What has touched you this week? (eg. A news story)
• What has touched the local community? Walthamstow?
• What are the issues that we are supporting or dealing with as a Church?
• What is the Bible passage about (in this week’s reading)? Does it give any hints?
Remember…Keep prayers short and easy to concentrate on.
Beginning and Ending Prayers
An opening sentence or promise from the Bible can set the right tone or theme for the prayers.
Biddings (opening sentences that you can use - from the Church of England Website - Common Worship). Use these or an appropriate Bible promise to start your prayers.
• “Let us pray for the Church and for the world, and let us thank God for his goodness.”
• “In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.” • “From the rising of the sun to it’s setting, let us pray to the Lord.”
• “Let us pray to the Father”.
The Seasons of the church year have specific opening sentences as provided in Common Worship (see below for website details), eg. Advent: In joyful expectation of his coming, let us pray in the name of Christ. If you want to use these, they can be found on the church of England website (see below).
One of these responses may be used in a set of prayers:
Lord, in your mercy
All hear our prayer
Lord, hear us All, Lord graciously hear us.
God of love All, hear our prayer
Father of all
All hear your children’s prayer
In faith we pray
All we pray to you our God
Lord, meet us in the silence
All and hear our prayer
Seasonal responses can be found on the Church of England website (see below).
The commonly used ending to intercessions is…
All accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
You might find it helpful to go into church before the day, with someone who will stand at the furthest end of the building while you practise. Ask for feedback on whether you can be heard, how clearly you speak, and your tone of voice: is it calm and sincere, without sounding artificially ‘holy’?
Make sure that you and the person leading the service both know which of you is ‘topping’ and ‘tailing’ the prayers, and when you are expected to leave your seat to come to the front.
Allow the congregation time to settle before you start speaking. Take a couple of deep breaths.
Speak slowly and clearly. When reading or speaking in public, we have to speak more slowly than we would in ordinary conversation.
If you use silences, then count: 30 seconds is about right.
Pause, after the final ‘Amen’, before returning to your seat.
The Church of England lectionary for the current year
Chelmsford Diocese: Wings4Worship Course https://www.chelmsford.anglican.org/uploadsnew/pages/Wings4Worship_20-05-13_Final.pdf accessed 25/01/2021.
Anna de Lange & Liz Simpson, How to ... Lead the Prayers: A Training Course, Grove Books Limited, 2003, ISBN 978-1851744940.
John Pritchard, The Intercessions Handbook: Creative Ideas for Public and Private Prayers, SPCK, 2005, ISBN 978-0281057658. https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/topical-prayers/leading-prayerthrough-intercessio
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