55. Elements of Ordinary Public Worship—From the People to God

  1. Public Prayer
    1. Prayer is an essential element of public worship. In order to be accepted by God, prayer is to be by faith, in the name of the Son of God, by the help of His Spirit, and according to God’s will.
    2. In preparation for the service, the session should provide circumstances conducive to the people adopting an attitude appropriate to worship and prayer.
    3. He who leads in public prayer serves as the voice of the congregation. For this reason, he should pray in such a way, in clear words and in the plural, that the entire assembly of God’s people can pray with him; and it is the duty of the members of the congregation, not only to hear his words, but also to pray them in their hearts. To these ends, he who leads should diligently prepare himself for public prayers, so that he may perform this duty with propriety and with profit to the worshipers.
    4. It is particularly appropriate that public prayer be led by a pastor of the congregation, because in it he both guides the people in their corporate prayer to God and teaches them how to pray biblically. Accordingly, every minister should, by a thorough acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, by the study of the best writings on prayer, by meditation, and by a life of communion with God, endeavor to acquire both the spirit and the skill of prayer, as should ruling elders. When a guest minister is present, it is well that a pastor or ruling elder, as one who knows the congregation, lead in the prayers of intercession.
    5. Near the beginning of the service, there should be a brief prayer of approach to God in response to His call to enter His presence for worship. It may express humble adoration, confess unworthiness and inability to worship aright, seek His merciful acceptance through Jesus Christ, and invoke the gracious working of the Holy Spirit.
    6. During the service, there should be comprehensive prayer, which may be offered as more than one prayer throughout the worship service. Such prayer should include adoration of God’s perfections, thanksgiving for all His mercies, confession of sin, supplication for forgiveness through the blood of the atonement and for renewal by the Holy Spirit, lamentation in times of distress or crisis, and intercession for the needs of God’s people and others. It is fitting that the congregation intercede for the whole of mankind; for civil rulers; for the church universal; for Christian missions at home and abroad, Christian education, and other Christian activities; for our whole Church; for churches in ties of like faith with us; for the welfare of the local congregation itself, including its officers, its ministries, and its members, pleading for their growth in sanctification and remembering the daily needs and care of the people—the families, the singles, the rising generation, the elderly, the poor, the sick, the dying, the mourning, the erring, and unsaved loved ones; and for whatever else may seem particularly suitable.
    7. It is fitting that a prayer of confession of sin precede or follow any reading of the law of God to the congregation.
    8. It is appropriate that there be a brief offertory prayer either immediately preceding or immediately following the worship of God with offerings. Such prayer may thank God for His gifts, devote the offering and the worshipers to His service, and invoke His blessing on its use and on those who give.
    9. It is fitting to pray at the time of the reading and preaching of the Word. Such prayer may petition for the Holy Spirit to grant illumination and to apply the Word preached to the minds, hearts, and lives of the people and give thanks for the Word received. It is valuable that such prayer should be by the one preaching the Word.
    10. While public prayer must always be offered with deep humility and holy reverence and be free from vain repetition or display of words, it can be fitting at times for the entire congregation to pray vocally in unison. The form of prayer that our Lord Jesus taught His disciples, commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer,” is particularly appropriate for this use by the congregation. Great care should be taken, however, to guard against allowing this practice to become a mere formula or ritual.
    11. It is fitting to encourage the congregation to join vocally in a corporate “amen” at the conclusion of a prayer.
    12. Our prayers should be addressed to God the Father and concluded in the name of the Son, according to Scripture.[1]
  2. Congregational Singing
    1. Congregational singing is a duty and privilege and should not be neglected in worship. Let every member of the church take part in this act of worship. God’s people should sing, not merely with the lips, but with understanding and with grace in their hearts, making melody to the Lord.
    2. As public worship is for the praise and glory of God and the building up of the saints, not for the entertainment of the congregation nor the praise of man, the character of the songs used therein is to befit the nature of God and the purpose of worship.
    3. Congregations do well to sing the metrical versions or other musical settings of the Psalms frequently in public worship. Congregations also do well to sing hymns of praise that respond to the full scope of divine revelation. It is recommended that new songs and Psalm settings be sung along with the familiar hymns of the church.
    4. In the choice of song for public worship, great care must be taken that all the materials of song are fully in accord with the Scriptures. The words are to be suitable for the worship of God and the tunes are to be appropriate to the meaning of the words and to the occasion of public worship. Care should be taken to the end that the songs chosen will express those specific truths and sentiments which are appropriate at the time of their use in the worship service.
    5. Musical gifts are properly used in public worship to assist the congregation in its worship of God. They may not be used for the praise or applause of men.
    6. No person may take a prominent part in the leadership of the service unless he is a professing Christian who is a member of Christ’s church.
  3. Public Confession of Faith
    1. Individual believers are to publicly profess their faith in Christ before God and His people in order formally to pledge their commitment to serve Christ and to be welcomed into all the privileges of full communion with God’s people.
    2. It is also fitting that the congregation as one body confess its common faith, using creeds that are true to the Word of God, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed.
  4. The Bringing of Offerings
    1. The bringing of offerings in the public assembly of God’s people on the Lord’s Day is a solemn act of worship to almighty God. The people of God are to set aside to Him the firstfruits of their labors; in so doing, they should present themselves with thanksgiving as a living sacrifice to God. All should participate in this act of worship when God gives opportunity for it. Parents are to instruct and encourage their children by precept and example to give of their substance regularly, purposefully, generously, and joyfully to the Lord through His church.
    2. It is the duty of the pastor, since he is to proclaim to the people the whole counsel of God, to cultivate biblical stewardship and the grace of liberal giving in the members of the church. The pastor himself, as well as the officers of the church, should be exemplary in their own worship through tithes and offerings. The Pastor should remind the church of the admonition in Scripture that everyone is to give as the Lord has prospered him, of the assurance of Scripture that God loves a cheerful giver, and of the blessed example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was rich, became poor, in order that poor sinners through His poverty might become rich.
    3. The session shall take care that the tithes and offerings of the congregation are used only for biblical purposes, such as the maintenance of public worship, the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world, the ministry of mercy in Christ’s name, and other Christian objects.
    4. It is desirable that Christian love be demonstrated by offerings for the use of the deacons in the ministry of mercy on behalf of the church. It is appropriate that a special offering be received for this purpose following the Lord’s Supper.

  1. Luke 11:2; John 14:13-14.

License

Evangel Presbytery Book of Church Order Copyright © 2021 by Evangel Presbytery. All Rights Reserved.