Sometimes I like to think I’m pretty modern. Or maybe postmodern, which ever is the hip one right now.
I wear v-necks. I have an iPhone. I use Twitter like it’s my JOB. Occasionally, I’ll even listen to a band who plays old-timey music in a new-timey way, with rolled up jeans and banjos and sneaky accordions, which actually makes it cutting edge music.
But, sometimes, I’m shocked at how old-fashioned I really am at heart.
I was reminded of this recently when a pastor I saw “jump started” a prayer. Not familiar with the phrase? That’s good, because I think I just invented it.
A “jump start prayer” or JSP is when someone just launches into a prayer in the middle of a thought without any sort of introduction or indication that they are about to pray. With absolutely zero warning, suddenly you’re in the middle of prayerville.
Here’s what it usually looks like when a pastor jump starts a prayer:
“I was talking to a neighbor recently about crab grass, because it was an issue both our yards had this summer. And I realized, loving your neighbor can start with small conversations like that. God, you are so gracious to us. You make all things new. You make us lie down in green pastures.”
Did you catch it? It was subtle, one second we were talking about yard work, and the next second we were addressing the Almighty in prayer. Here’s what I always think when it happens:
1. Is saying, “Let’s pray” like saying, “I go to Sunday School?”
Nobody goes to Sunday School anymore. They go to life group or small group. Sunday School is so old-fashioned. Is saying, “Let’s pray,” the same way?
2. How do I know when to close my eyes?
If you say “Let’s bow our heads in prayer,” do you know what I do? I bow my head in prayer. If you say, “It’s so exciting to see everyone here today, Lord you know our hearts, we lift our prayers to you Father God,” guess what I do? Stare at you for at least half of the prayer until I realize we’re praying, at which point I will close my eyes as fast as possible in sweaty prayer shame.
3. Did you learn this from worship leaders?
Be honest. Did they start this? I bet they did. They’ve been doing this kind of thing for years. I call it “talk singing.” In the middle of saying hello to the crowd, they’ll launch into a song with no transition. “My wife and I were having coffee this weekend. And we realized, everyone needs compassion, love that’s never failing.” I bet you pastors picked up this habit from worship leaders.
Ultimately, I think it’s perfectly fine to lead a corporate prayer without any sort of introduction. Jump start all you want, but at least close your eyes. The pastor I saw a few weeks ago kept his eyes open, which threw me off the prayer trail even further. At that point, I wasn’t sure if he was doing a little spoken word or performance art.
Whichever one is more modern or postmodern, that is.
When you’re praying with other people, how do you start your prayers?