The first few moments of a worship gathering will set the tone for the rest of the service. People come to church with all sorts of thoughts, distractions, and things going on in their lives that worship leaders and pastors should remain conscious of. One of the best things you can do for your congregation is to give them a moment to focus their hearts and minds in prayer before praise and worship.
These moments can be as long or as short as you like, but don’t be afraid to linger a little while. Even if you want to launch off the gathering with an upbeat worship song, you can still take those important first moments to pause together in the presence of God for a time of prayerful worship.
Here are four prayer points with Bible verses to help you lead your congregation away from distractions and into a posture of worship and adoration. You could have a worship leader or a pastor read these Bible verses to open your worship gathering while the band is playing softly and then linger a while to provide time to pray.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95:2 ESV)
Thankfulness is a simple and effective way to shift hearts into a posture of worship. Read this verse from Psalm 95 to start your worship gathering off, and then provide a time for reflective prayers of thanksgiving. The worship leader can prompt the prayer time by asking the congregation to think of specific blessings God has brought into their lives and invite them to thank Him for these things. This simple task of listing the things to be thankful for and then giving God praise for them will quickly prepare hearts and minds to worship.
Prayer for the Burdened Heart
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV)
This is an opportunity for pastors to be sensitive to overwhelmed or heavy hearts in the congregation. People come to church from all walks of life, and we all need Jesus. This verse from Matthew is a great way to remind everyone that they can come to worship just as they are and lay it all out before Jesus with an open heart. Providing time for people to talk to Jesus about the heavy things on their hearts before worship can break the heavy yoke upon them and give them rest for their souls.
As a leader and shepherd of the people in your congregation you must remain tender towards them by understanding that they may need a moment before jumping into that opening upbeat worship song. This simple act of giving them space to turn to Jesus can help them feel seen and loved by God. Providing a moment like this can also help your congregation understand that they are not there to watch a performance, but to worship and participate.
Prayer of God’s Faithfulness
“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You; I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.” (Isaiah 25:1 ESV)
When we worship we must take our eyes away from ourselves and turn them upon Jesus. Remembering God’s faithfulness is one way to do this. Remembering is an easy way to engage our hearts and minds. It is also an act of worship we often see in scripture. Use this verse from Isaiah to encourage your congregation to remember God’s faithfulness from generation to generation. This moment of prayer is for reflecting on the faithfulness and goodness of God.
You may invite your congregation to remember how God has been faithful in their lives and also the lives of their family members from generations before them. This serves as a good way to remind those attending your service that God has always been and always will be faithful. This will ready their hearts to worship as they take their minds off of their present troubles and set them on Jesus.
Prayer of Adoration
“Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 ESV)
God is always worthy of our praise and worship. Read this verse to remind your congregation that God is worthy no matter the season or circumstances. Then have someone lead an opening prayer of adoration and worship. This is the posture of worship that you are aiming for. Like the woman with the alabaster jar who poured out all she had on the feet of Jesus in Matthew 26:7, so should we know His worth and give Him all of our worship.
Even when we don’t feel like it, God is always worthy. Sometimes the thing that breaks down the walls of our hearts is worshipping anyway regardless of how we feel. As leaders you can use an opening prayer to teach your congregation how to prepare their own hearts to worship. Since every person comes to church at a different place in their walk with Christ, prompting them to pray and leaving space for them to do so is an opportunity to teach them how to lead themselves in worship. This practice is not only useful for when we come together in corporate worship, but also for times of individual worship.
Inward to Outward Focus
These four prayer points are just a few ways to help you ready hearts and minds to worship. Taking a moment to pray is good for everyone, including those who are facilitating the worship gathering. The worship team, tech team, and pastors who have been rehearsing and preparing all morning need this time as well. It is an opportunity for leaders and church goers alike to focus their hearts and minds on Jesus together.
You can use one or all of these opening prayer ideas depending on how much time you want to take at the beginning of your gathering. Sometimes all your congregation needs is a moment to focus before going into the first worship song. After all, there is so much going on in the lives of your church members and visitors. There are so many things that can distract us when we come to worship. Think about the parents who are flustered from getting their children ready for church, those dealing with tough job situations, or the ones with a loved one who needs healing.
The goal of focusing hearts and minds for praise and worship is to go from an inward focus to an outward vertical focus of adoration centered around the worth of Jesus. These opening prayer ideas will help you start off on the right foot and guide your church to that place of adoration and worship.