What is the Elder Prayer? Why does Harvest have an Elder Prayer? Why is it formal and read?
The Elder Prayer is a time dedicated in our service where we communicate to God corporately. The Elders are praying on behalf of and in conjunction with the congregation. These prayers are typically comprised of the following: praise and adoration for who God is and His sovereign majesty and worthiness; confession of and repentance for our sins and our unworthiness; thanksgiving for God’s unmerited grace and mercy in Christ; and intercession (or supplication) for the local church, global church, government, sickness, spiritual growth, and other needs.
You may notice that during these prayers, a good deal of Scripture is directly (or indirectly) quoted. This quoted Scripture is an intentional insertion. As we believe that the Bible is God-breathed and that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of the Bible, we are simply praying God’s words back to Him when we quote Scripture. What better way to pray in the Spirit than by literally praying the inspired words that have already been given to us?
These Elder Prayers are also a time of teaching. Through these Elder Prayers, we are instructing and modeling for others in the way to pray. As the exposure we have to well-rounded, Bible-centered, doctrinally sound prayer increases, we will all be able to conduct our own prayer lives increasingly in this same manner. Given the many examples of and importance placed upon prayer throughout Scripture,1 we believe that this prayer is integral to our corporate worship gatherings. We are told repeatedly throughout the Bible that Christians are to be a praying people.2 Practically speaking, prayer demonstrates to us our deep dependence on God and His sovereignty over our lives. At the same time, prayer is a privilege given to all believers who, through Christ’s work, are able to commune with the Holy God.
As for why these prayers are prepared ahead of time and read aloud during the service, we answer with this question. When you speak aloud, do you think about what you are going to say before you say it? Your words may be thought out long beforehand or perhaps right in the moment; but you will admit that some thought (hopefully) goes into the words that you speak. Likewise, if you were speaking to a very important person such as a king, a queen, or a president, how much would you think about and plan what you would say to them? How much more so when we commune with the King of kings? In prayer, we are humbly speaking to the Creator of the entire universe in a public corporate gathering. Accordingly, we want to be sure that we are precise and intentional in what we say. Instead of approaching this specific prayer time in an impromptu manner, we believe it is of paramount importance to be thoughtfully prepared in our Elder Prayers to our great God.3
(1) – Gen. 25:21, 2Sam. 7:18, 1Kgs. 8:22, Neh. 1:4-11, Prov. 15:8, 15:29, Isa. 38:5, 56:7, Dan. 9:3-19, Jon. 2:1, Mt. 6:5-13, Lk. 1:13, 6:12, Jn. 17, Acts 6:4, 10:31, 12:5, 16:25
(2) – Acts 1:14, 2:42, Rom. 12:12, 2Cor. 1:11, Phil. 4:6-7, Col. 4:2-4, Jas. 5:13
(3) – Ezra 7:11, 1Cor. 14:15 “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” 1Cor. 14:19 “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 1Cor. 14:40 “But all things should be done decently and in order.”