Leading Intercessions

I’m thinking of writing some guidelines for those who lead prayers of intercession in church. I have a few ideas of my own – range of themes to cover, overall length, how to signpost the prayers since most people will have their eyes closed, seeing them as representative of the congregation’s prayer life rather than exhaustive, etc. But before I get to this task I thought I would ask you, O noble blog reader, what you would include in any such document.

Suggestions are welcome below.

Depending on the appropriateness of the final content,  I may post the document here on the blog.


  1. One of the ways of leading intercessory prayer that I use most frequently is to lead the congregation in a conversation about subjects for shared prayer, and then to hold a period of silence when these can be offered to God. I absolutely avoid turning this into a memory test where I try to repeat back to them what they’ve already said – enough that they’ve said it. I offer a short gathering prayer to conclude the silence. Many people who would not speak prayers into the silence will offer their concerns in conversation.


  2. I see no single approach to this. My own vicar has said he wants us to keep to 5 minutes. For content I guess I normally use, but not rigidly the guidelines in common Worship – well I am CoE! I will consider issues surrounding the wider church, issues of local, national, international significance and local congregational matters.

    One church whose guodance I read commented that they should not include any kind of honour or praise to God because other parts of the service cover that. Also don’t preay for the staff, clergy of the parish as they are part of the people in whose name the intercessions they are offered. I don’t personally agree with that one.

    Also worth considering whether the intercessor leads from the back. Thiss may help those who are a bit shy and epmpphasises that we are offering the prayers of the people. Or you may prefer the front where you are visible and may have easier PA.
    I generally encourage ours to write prayers in full, until they have more confidence.


  3. I find the most helpful thing to be lots of space for people to be, to still themselves, to hear what God wants to say to them, instead of a long list of needs. It is good to be in God’s presence and say and hear what we need to.


  4. I’d recommend including children’s author John Marsden’s ‘A Prayer for the 21st Century’. I used it once in leading prayers and it went well, although one lady asked me afterwards what I was talking about! I prefer doing Bible readings or welcoming.


  5. Personally I like it when the prayers, or some of them, are linked with the theme, one of the readings or the sermon or preceding hymn. It’s good also if intercessors can pick up on some practical application of the sermon and use it as a prayer for that church.

    On a more practical level, allowing people space to offer their own prayers is good – and explain that’s what you’re doing do people don’t think you’ve forgotten or nodded off.
    And anything which allows people to join in with or “own” the prayer – eg writing a prayer need down, lighting a candle, laying a pebble or even just saying a simple response.

    Allow people to pick a style which suits them – extempore, written or maybe even visual.


  6. A bit off subject but thought you may be interested in these excerpts from an article I read this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “And the last shall be first – why leaders thrive on humble pie” by John Dickson, the author of “Humilitas: Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership”. He is a senior research fellow of the department of ancient history at Macquarie University. And a Christian.

    “Aristotle also makes a distinction between the leader’s character and his or her mere reputation, position or authority. One could be an ancient Greek senator or a modern business guru and it would not count nearly as much to an audience (or an electorate) as the perceived integrity and authenticity of that leader.”

    “I found this principle at work on me when I was involved in a historical documentary for Australian television a few years ago. I had the opportunity to interview about a dozen international scholars, all at the top of their respective fields. Some had an air of self-importance; others seemed strangely humble. Professor Richard Bauckham, then of the University of St Andrews in Scotland, is a pure polymath: comfortable in eight languages, author of more than 30 books and competent in fields of historical inquiry I hadn’t even heard of before reading his works.
    When our crew arrived, we were taken aback by Bauckham’s very gracious demeanour and his simple offer of tea and coffee for the crew. He disappeared for a few minutes – we thought to pass the order on to one of the college staff – then returned with a tray, having made everything himself. He handed the drinks out, then sat down for one of the most erudite interviews of the series. It was a small human courtesy, but very striking in the context.
    The effect was real and unexpected. Months later, while working on another project, I reached over to my bookshelf to consult Bauckham on some contentious historical detail and found myself firmly persuaded by his point of view. His arguments seemed strangely more compelling than those of others, including some of the others I had met and interviewed. Only when reflecting on Aristotle’s ideas about influence did I become fully aware of my “bias”. It wasn’t just that I had met him; it was my lasting impression that this senior academic was also a humble, “good-hearted” man.
    In academia, business, sport and perhaps especially in politics, a leader’s humility can exert a powerful, if intangible, force. Those in the influencing business should remember one golden rule: the most persuasive person is the one we believe has our best interests at heart.”

    Maybe in religion too?


    1. Maybe that is a bit off-topic, Pam, but … that is exactly the Richard Bauckham I knew when he was my research supervisor twenty years ago. He gathered his research students at regular intervals to read a theological book and discuss it. We then had lunch together at the university, and he always insisted on paying for the coffees. A small touch, but indicative of the man.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s