I mentioned last week that our discussions on Psalm 119 have given me an opportunity to talk about corporate worship. Specifically, we have discussed what it means to read the Bible together and pray together.
David and Bethel can read well enough to take turns reading verses, but when they’re not reading, it’s obvious that they’re woolgathering. When their turn comes around, there’s a good chance they’re looking under the tablecloth, trying to balance a spoon on a glass, or sucking on their shirt collar, not thinking about what we’re reading. It’s possible I’m stretching their attention span too much, and I’ve been brainstorming different ways to read together. I want our discussion times to be happy times, something they look forward to; however, I have discovered that deliberately teaching them how to read corporately has been of value.
What should you be doing when Bethel is reading a verse? I ask David. He doesn’t give an answer, so I tell him. (Maybe I should have asked a few questions instead of jumping to lecture mode. sigh) Reading together means that when someone else is reading, I’m reading too. We’re reading and thinking together. They’re still learning this. I’m certain it will take awhile, but at least I’m defining a goal for them.
When we started reading Psalm 119, I asked my children a similar question and then answered myself. What should we do when King David is praying? He gives us the words to pray, and we pray with him. What should we do when Mommy prays King David’s words? Same thing.
When I pray with my children “Help us to be obedient” at the lunch table, I’m not just speaking to myself. I’m wanting my children to pray these things too. This is the whole point of what we call “corporate prayer.” A person leads in prayer, and we internally repeat his (or her) prayer. In this way, ideally, the person helps me to frame my prayers better, more biblically, or more clearly. In general, the leader’s outline and topics for prayer should become my own. Instead, what often happens to me is that I treat a corporate prayer like I’m following a conversation: listening, but not really participating. I’m starting to realize that when I actively pray after the leader, I can pay attention better. That doesn’t surprise you, does it?
So once or twice I’ve gone through a few verses in Psalm 119 that we’ve read, and I asked the children what we could be praying or thinking when those verse are read. Then I turned the verses into prayers and encouraged them to pray with me. I don’t really know if they understand what I’m trying to show them, but as a result of these conversations, I’ve been learning a few things. They are things I want to talk about with my children.
- Sometimes we add details to the leader’s prayer. For example, the leader may make an appropriately vague request, and I may add a specific request because I know the situation. Leader: We ask for wisdom for sister Bertha…. Michelle: Help sister Bertha to know whether she should move back closer to her family….) When I read some of King David’s requests in Psalm 119, I make them my own. I’m not just listening to David’s request to desire God’s Word. I’m telling God that I want to desire his Word, too.
- Sometimes we might give additional prayers. I can add to any prayer request for improved health that God gives wisdom to doctors, or that God will use the hardship to make a person more like Christ. We might add a caveat: for healing, if it is God’s will. for a husband for a single friend, but if it’s better for her to be single, help her to be content.
- Sometimes we change the leader’s prayer. For example, the leader might ask for God to take away the suffering of sister Bertha, but I can see that sister Bertha’s suffering is actually helping her to seek God, something she wasn’t doing before. So as the leader reminds me of sister Bertha’s suffering, I can thank God that he is using a hard situation for good, that he will continue to do so, and that he will have mercy on her. Every once in awhile, a leader might make an unbiblical prayer request. It’s a good thing to change it, if we know how, into something better.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about another part of corporate worship: music.