There are a few drastic differences between praying alone and leading prayer before a congregation. Praying by oneself requires no preparation or special intentions. Speaking from the heart for as long as needed with no special editing or references is allowed. As prayer is speaking to God, doing so alone involves whatever is on the conscience of the person praying. When doing so for congregational purposes, in front of an audience, being aware of others is vital.
Prepare. As would be done for any speech, sufficient preparation is a given. Spend a couple hours first in deciding which form of prayer is appropriate for the day, then in the actual usage of words. Decide whether a set prayer should be used versus an original prayer.
Be simple. Pray with the ear of the audience in mind, instead of trying to be eloquent and using extensive words. Keep in mind that God is the primary listener. He is not impressed by long words, but rather the intention behind the words themselves. It is easy to get lost in thought, and bore the people of the congregation. Losing their interest should be avoided by catering to an all age group. There are both children and adults in the audience, therefore, simplicity is key in keeping everyone's attention.
Avoid selfishness. Use words like "we" and "us" since the objective is to lead prayer, not to pray for one intention. Don't list everything of note that happened in a certain week. For example, don't name every death or marriage that has taken place that week, instead pray for the general thought of the marriages and funerals that have recently occurred. Also, instead of making a list of demands to God, asking for things, ask Him for guidance in wanting the right things that will lead life in the right direction.
Be structured. Ensure that the prepared prayer has a good flow and will be easy to follow. There is nothing worse than listening to a speech with no appropriate order. Transition easily from one topic to another while staying interesting.
Pray genuinely. While speaking in prayer, do so from the heart. Act as though God is standing in the room. After all, that is the purpose in which the congregation has gathered, to pray to the Lord and ask for guidance. Pray like you mean it, with purpose. Be passionate but not overbearing. Avoid certain distracting quirks that might take focus away from the words themselves. So, while preparing, ensure that you do so out loud to take note of any annoying mishaps. Before you pray, pray. Ask God ahead of time for guidance in leading prayer. This will build confidence knowing that God present in helping get the point across appropriately.
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