Prayers in worship services and personal life

How does the WELS promote active participation in prayer? Much of our service is so scripted (all for good reason I know) and so are additional prayers for before and after Communion, baptism, opening/ close of day, or before dinner. I think back to my WELS grade school days - our devotions and our Christ-Light book prayers were scripted as well. It is one thing to have prayer examples so that something important in our prayers to God aren't missed, but I'll speak for myself, and likely others, that it is so repeated that sometimes I fail to focus, to listen, and truly pray from the heart. I can't help but see a disconnect. My point is that the WELS is near and dear to my heart, and has given me a heart for Jesus, but I believe that we aren't taught to actively pray to the Lord. I don't understand why other denominations or non-denominational individuals feel so free to pray off the cuff. Are there any initiatives on this? If not, I'm strongly interested in hearing your comments. Thank you!

My response will address “prepared prayers” in worship services and the teaching of prayer in general.  I hope that is adequate.

You already acknowledge good reason for “scripting” parts of our worship service.  In Christian freedom our pastors—in worship services—can offer prayers that they or others have written ahead of time, or they can speak prayers that are not written out.  While many pastors offer ex corde prayers in settings such as meetings, Bible classes, visits to hospitals, nursing homes and private residences, they often prepare prayers as part of their general worship service preparation.  Such prayer preparation can offer the same advantage as writing out the sermon:  the pastor will be able to choose his words ahead of time, and there is less likelihood of using the same words and phrases.  In addition, this preparation can reduce and eliminate the worshipers’ uncomfortableness and sense of awkwardness when the person praying is trying to find the right words.

On the other hand, there are pastors who can offer ex corde prayers week after week in worship services with freshness and variety, and with ease.  For them, printed prayers are a luxury more than a necessity for their role as worship leader.

I have used the terminology ex corde without explaining it for others who may read your question and this response.  Ex corde refers to praying “from the heart,” when there is no printed prayer in front of a person.  Obviously I have no problem with that definition.  What can concern me is when people think an ex corde prayer is more spiritual—or better—than a prayer that has been written out—by the person praying or by someone else.  That is when I like to say this:  even when I use a prayer that someone else wrote, that is as much of a prayer “from the heart” as the prayers that are called “ex corde.”  And, incidentally, using prayers written by others will often take me out of my own little world and lead me to pray for other people and for other things.

Regarding the teaching of prayer in WELS, I can only comment on what I see and hear.  When I go through the book of James with college students, I ask them what others have taught them about prayer:  how to have a balanced prayer life in offering “prayers, petitions, intercession, and thanksgiving…for all people (2 Timothy 2:1).  I regularly hear acronyms and memory hooks that can guide them in their prayer life.

Could we do better in our teaching and modeling of Christian prayer?  Certainly.  We can do better and grow in all aspects of our Christian life.

What we want to keep teaching is that prayer is the privilege God has given us whereby we can speak to him; prayer is a conversation we have with God.  He speaks to us through the word, and we speak to him in prayer.   Because of God’s invitation to pray and his promise to hear and answer our prayers, we can come boldly to him with our “prayers, petitions, intercession, and thanksgiving.”