Do you believe public prayer of the church has the power to shape who we are and how we behave? By the term public prayer I do not mean the incidental prayers done here and there within worship. Rather, public prayer refers to the total worship experience, from its beginning to its end. The kind of worship I refer to is a prayer in the world for the world.
The gathering with its procession, songs of praise, prayers, and confessions is an act of prayer. The Word with its readings, Psalms, preaching, prayers of intercession, passing of the peace, and offering is all prayer. The Table worship with its setting, the “holy, holy, holy,” the alleluias, breaking of the bread, offering of the cup, rites of healing, and songs of death, resurrection, communion, and thanksgiving is all an act of prayer. The dismissal that sends people forth to love and serve the Lord is an act of prayer.
These acts of prayer, however, are not a mere collection of prayers but a praying of God’s story of the world and an offering of God’s story of the world to God as an act of thanksgiving. The whole act of worship says, “God, we are here to remember your story and to pray that the whole world, the entire cosmos, will be gathered in your Son and brought to the fulfillment of your purposes in him!” This kind of a prayer is a public way to remember God’s saving deeds in the past and to anticipate God’s rule over all creation in the future.
Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship : Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 149.