During a regular worship service in the Canadian Reformed tradition, regardless of whether one follows the A or B liturgy, there are 2 moments of prayer. When the sacraments are celebrated, there are 3 moments, sometimes even 4. However, some church traditions have more moments of prayer. More recently some CanRC ministers will sometimes pray a short prayer immediately after the sermon.
This article is about the moments of prayer during worship services following the practices of churches in the Dort tradition.
The orders of worship in common use indicate two moments of prayer.
The A order of worship for the morning has the first prayer quite late into the service. It is described as “Prayer (with confession of sins, prayer for forgiveness, renewal, and illumination, and intercessions)”. The second prayer as described as “Prayer of Thanksgiving”. For the afternoon service the first prayer is described as “Prayer (for the opening of the word, and intercession)”. The second prayer is described as “Prayer of Thanksgiving”.
The B order of worship has the first prayer earlier in the service. The first prayer is described as “Prayer (public confession of sins; prayer for forgiveness, renewal, and illumination)”. The second prayer as “Prayer (thanksgiving, and prayer for all the needs of Christendom)”. For the afternoon service the first prayer is described as “Prayer (for the opening of the Word)”. The second prayer is described as “Prayer (thanksgiving and intercession)”.
The foregoing indicates that the terminology between the A order (dating to 1933) and the B order (dating to 1975) have not been aligned. Analysis and reflection of moments of prayer during worship indicates there are actually five prayers.
- Prayer of praise and adoration
- Prayer in relation to sin (confession, forgiveness, renewal, repentance)
- Prayer of thanksgiving and intercession (needs of the congregation, Christendom, and world)
- Prayer for enlightenment by the Holy Spirit
- Prayer of application (referred to as “thanksgiving” in the above orders)
These five prayers have been ‘compressed’ into two moments of prayer. The first prayer of a morning worship tends to consist of 1, 2 & 4 in that order. If the A liturgy is followed strictly, it is 1, 2, 3 & 4. The second prayer tends to be 5 & 3 in that order. If the A liturgy is followed strictly, it is just 5. As prayer 2 is connected directly to the reading of the law, and the law is not read during the afternoon service, the first prayer in the afternoon tends to be 1 & 4, the second prayer 5 & 3.
Some ministers have the habit of splitting the “material” of prayer 3 over the two services. During the morning service the needs of the local congregation are brought before the Lord. During the afternoon service the needs of Christendom in general and society in general are brought before the Lord. Some will also use the morning prayer to give thanks for blessings received in the week past, and the afternoon prayer to pray for blessings over activities of the coming week.
Prayer of Application separated out
In some traditions the minister will end his sermon with a prayer. That is the prayer of application (#5). As noted, some Canadian Reformed ministers will also pray a prayer of application immediately after the sermon. This creates a third moment of prayer in the service.
Their reasons for doing so are two-fold.
First, in some services the second prayer is ‘delayed’ by a sacrament administration, by public profession of faith, or by preparation for the Lord’s Supper. It makes better sense to keep the prayer of application as close to the sermon as possible.
Second, in some churches elders will lead the congregation in congregational prayer when a guest minister is preaching. Elders may not be comfortable praying extemporaneously (“off the cuff”) and when preparing their prayer, may not be aware of the message of the sermon. This makes for a very general prayer of application. It makes better sense to have the minister pray the prayer of application.
More moments of prayer
Separating out the prayer of application does not increase the time the congregation spends in prayer during a worship service. Rather, in the attempt to keep items together that belong together, it creates a third moment of prayer.
For completeness’ sake it should be noted that the responsive song following the sermon may also function as (part of) the prayer of application.
While there are just two moments of prayer during a worship service, there are in fact five prayers. Currently it is becoming more common to have a third moment of prayer. This third moment is created by separating the “prayer of application” from the “prayer of intercession” in the second prayer.