In the worship service you attend, is the time of prayer a time of joy? Is prayer a highlight and a focus? Strange question! “Joy,” “highlight” and “focus” are not words we usually  associate with prayer in our worship services.

Through Isaiah, God describes true Sabbath-keeping as an occasion for unbelievers and “people from all  nations” to unite with believers and experience “joy in my house of prayer”  (Isaiah 56:6-7). True worship draws “all nations.”  It is evangelistic—an outreach to the  lost. In this outreach, “requests, prayer,  intercession and thanksgiving” (1  Timothy 2:1) are powerful weapons by  which the church can capture the needs of the lost.

Most people love to be  prayed for! It reaches their hearts and  softens their unbelief.  Somewhere along our journey, we  have lost the lesson of evangelism  through joyful prayer in worship, but  now it is our privilege to learn it again and put it into practice.

How can we do this? First, we can reestablish our local church as a house of prayer. How little time, thought and energy are typically given to prayer in worship! We ask someone to “do the  prayer,” and we hope that person will  keep it short. This leaves more time for the things that are apparently more  important to us, like announcements, offering appeals, music and preaching.

But Jesus’ teaching is clear: “My house  will be called a house of prayer.”  Lesser things must not be allowed to consume the time that should be given for prayer and praise. Sometimes several minutes are taken by announcements, appeals or prayer requests, while only one minute is devoted to actual praying.

Next, we must understand that simply extending time for prayer is self-defeating if the praying is dry, formalistic and joyless. If this is the case, let’s keep the praying short! But it is our privilege to learn how to pray by God’s Spirit, which is to pray with simplicity, sincerity, creativity and joy. With thought and planning, we can move from “doing a prayer” to  “coming into a time and attitude of prayer.”

In the service, time can profitably be given for sharing praises aloud. Needs and requests are best collected on cards. Sabbath school classes, small groups and the church’s prayer network are excellent channels to supplement  this process. People may be invited to come to the front if they wish, bringing their cards and forming a “Garden of Prayer” that grows joy in the place of sadness.

Ask two, three or four people to pray, perhaps assigning a focus to each. Mention every request presented. Pray  with praise, pray with scripture, pray with sincerity and joy. Pray “in the  Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). Look for a variety of people to pray – men and women, seniors and younger  adults, youth and children, and people  from different cultures. Let’s obey Christ in this matter, and again experience joy in God’s house of  prayer.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New  International Version®, Copyright © 1973, 1978,  1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission  of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Republished from the April 2005 issue of Outlook magazine.