Prayers for significant public gatherings

This week I was asked to pray at the swearing in of our new county treasurer, who is also a member of our church.  I wrote Prayer for A New County Treasurer for that occasion.  I also wrote  Prayer for the Opening of Court a couple of years ago.  Both were well-received and hopefully were appropriate to the occasion.

I prefer to write out these prayers for public gatherings for two reasons:

  1. I don’t want to say the wrong thing;
  2. I don’t want to sound like God is endorsing whatever it is we are doing.

So, writing public prayers helps me focus on presenting the situation to God; asking for God’s guidance, presence, or blessing depending upon the circumstances; and, reminding those of us gathered of our corporate need for Divine connection.  

Like many of you, because I’m a preacher I often get asked to pray — for the food, for the team, for the class, for whatever it is that I’m at that needs a prayer.  Those are not too difficult, but public gatherings of significance, especially those that have political overtones, require a wisely discerned expression.  

What’s your experience?  Do you write out any of your public prayers?  If so, why?  What are your favorite public prayer stories?  I’d love to hear them.  Amen.

5 thoughts on “Prayers for significant public gatherings”

  1. Two weeks ago I gave the invocation for the annual banquet of the Edon Farmers Coop (OH). They fed me and my family and gave me an honorarium which I did not expect. I did it without writing it out and now I regret it. It was off the top of my head and sounded like it. The fact that they gave me the honorarium makes me feel twice as guilty. Lesson learned, I will write them out from now on.

  2. I know what you mean about not writing it, receiving an honorarium and feeling guilty. That happened to me when I was invited to give the invocation for the AFL/CIO convention. I arrived and was ushered into the hall just in time. I gave the prayer, a little out of breath and completely off the cuff. Not my best by a longshot. Subsequently, I was invited to pray at the start of a campaign event for Sen. Obama. This prayer I wrote and afterward, the campaign asked me for permission to post it on their website. I plan to always write for significant events.

  3. David and Ellis, thanks for sharing your experiences. I grew up in a tradition that thought written prayers were only prayed by main line churches, or liberals. I’m realizing that the Spirit can be in the preparation before the prayer, as well as in the presentation of the prayer. Thanks for your stories. -Chuck

  4. I serve as a Chaplain with our local Police Department and have from time to time been asked to pray at significant public gatherings. None was more significant than at two memorial events after the Metrolink Train Crash in September that killed 25 people.

    I haven’t written out prayers for these events, probably because of my non-mainline background. However, the more of them I’ve done, the more I finished them actually wishing I had written out my prayer instead.

  5. It’s nice to hear people your different experiences about being asked to pray in every gathering. I share one of my experiences, when i know its a gathering of especial events, i usually write my prayer, however there are moments that you automatically ask to pray right there and then. I think its best to prepare a prayer for common occassions and to write prayer of “extraordinary” event.

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