What to Do When Asked to Pray in a Public Setting
Invocation for a Public Meeting
After receiving more than 16,000 views of my previous article "Sample Invocation," I felt that another sample for a different context would be appropriate. This is based on more than 20 years of experience praying before local governmental meetings.
Preface to the prayer for the one giving the invocation: This prayer was designed for use as an invocation for a city council meeting. It can be modified to fit many other types of settings involving government bodies. As you prepare to modify it for your own use, keep these basic rules in mind:
- Understand the context. Is the event purely secular (non-religious), or within your particular faith circle? Make sure you employ a prayer-style and vocabulary which everyone can relate to.
- Be who you are. If you have been invited to pray, then do your best to represent your tradition or faith-community well. Make sure that you speak to God on behalf of the entire group.
- Pray for what is appropriate, given the occasion--and then stop. A rambling or repetitious prayer soon becomes offensive. Be very careful to abide by whatever time restraints have been put upon you.
- Make sure you pray in a voice that is slow and loud enough to be heard by everyone present. On the other hand, most people dislike a preachy or ranting tone in prayer.
- Be genuine. Far better than simply mouthing eloquent words, aim at true communication with God.
- There is nothing wrong with writing out your prayer beforehand. This will prevent saying something silly or unclear. If you read your prayer, put your heart and mind into the words you are saying.
- Remember, you are asking God's blessing on the gathering in some way. That alone is enough to take the assignment very seriously.
Here Is the Template:
Will you bow your head as I pray?
Dear wise and loving Father: First let me say, “Thank you” on behalf of all who are gathered here today. Thank you for your many and abundant blessings. Thank you for life itself, for the measure of health, we need to fulfill our callings, for sustenance and for friendship. Thank you for the ability to be involved in useful work and for the honor of bearing appropriate responsibilities. Thanks as well for the freedom to embrace you or the freedom to reject you. Thank you for loving us even so-- from your boundless and gracious nature.
In the scriptures, you have said that citizens ought to obey the governing authorities since you have established those very authorities to promote peace and order and justice. Therefore, I pray for our mayor, for the various levels of city officials and, in particular, for this assembled council. I am asking that you would graciously grant them:
- Wisdom to govern amid the conflicting interests and issues of our times
Read More From Owlcation
- A sense of the welfare and true needs of our people
- A keen thirst for justice and rightness
- Confidence in what is good and fitting
- The ability to work together in harmony even when there is honest disagreement
- Personal peace in their lives and joy in their task
I pray for the agenda set before them today. Please give an assurance of what would please you and what would benefit those who live and work in and around our beloved city of Fresno.
It is in your most blessed Name I pray, Amen.
I hope that this will be helpful and provide some clarity. Enjoy.
Chaplain Al on December 28, 2018:
I am not ashamed of my God the Father. Am I not one of His children? I have had a few harsh comments about the boldness of using Jesus. We were told that it is to be expected. So the very subject contained in Scripture is the fire from the altar, not to be dampened.
Rev. Joseph on September 17, 2018:
I appreciate this and will use some of it. The rules are good, but the example reflects a somewhat exclusive expression of faith. Secular environments are not the place for exclusionary prayers. So I would recommend a few changes:
1. Not all people of faith call God, "Father," some even recognize a feminine divine. So change the opening to "Wise and loving one,"
2. Don't use scriptural specifics. To begin with, most people won't remember them if asked spontaneously, and secondly, it excludes those who don't uphold the same scriptures.
Additionally, this prayer points to a very human authoritarian view and focuses on human agency. So I would also recommend these changes:
3. Don't say "I pray," "we pray," "I say," instead speak to God. If we say to another person, "I hope you'll wash my car," we're being passive-aggressive. Instead, say, "Would you please wash my car." Don't be passive-aggressive with God. Instead of, "I pray for the mayor/this agenda," say, "Bless our agenda to be fruitful and for the common good." or, "Grant that our mayor and council have ears to listen to the people they serve and wisdom to act for justice." "I pray" is vague and essentially meaningless.
4. Be sure to include something that speaks to unity or to listening to others, or patience. Prayers to support human authority can also promote conflict and divisiveness. In nearly all major religions, leaders are called to serve for the betterment of all. Our prayers with leaders should include reminders that the primary role of leaders is to serve, and the primary goal is for the sake of the people they serve.
I appreciate the insights, but I also have concerns.
Andrew on July 16, 2018:
really useful, many thanks.
Lola on April 04, 2018:
It is my first time to pray in the gathering of our President
Thanjk you so much for the few points of advise it really help me with the ground work on the etiquette of the special God given honour to pray at such a special occasion .
God Bless your ministry.
Tarlief on November 05, 2017:
So glad I stumbled across your post. Keep up the good work.
Cookie Walton-Garcia on October 09, 2017:
I was able to switch some words around to fit the agency that I am doing the invocation for. Thank you so much for your help.
Derrick Lane on April 25, 2017:
I know this is old, but I came across this as I am giving my first invocation this week (hopefully many more to follow). Your example has been the most helpful and truly blessed me! Thank you for sharing this. I pray it continues to bless many more!
Charito Valdez on October 28, 2014:
Thank you it is a very helpful for me as a beginners
Robert Frazier on December 28, 2013:
This is beautiful. Thank you.
Debbie Stoddard on April 17, 2012:
Thank you, just the help I needed for my prayer request.
alynah on March 10, 2011:
.....great prayer...thanks for posting...
Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 09, 2010:
Thank you, that was wonderful.