'The Lord said:
I heard your prayer and what you asked me to do'
(1 Kings 9:3)
If we are going to be creative in our prayer time then I do not feel that there should be too many hard and fast rules about the format and content. We are all individuals with our own thoughts about style and content, and this 'individuality ' can bring a freshness and vitality into a time spent talking and listening to God.
A structured prayer time is a more familiar in some denominations than others, who perhaps prefer extemporary prayer or an element of congregational participation by way of a time of 'open prayer'. Both are equally valid.
However, within the context of our collective worship there are certain elements that it would seem right to include, in order that our prayers are not seen to be too narrow in their aspirations.
These can be represented by the acronym A.C.T.S.
(i) ADORATION: Our prayer of adoration is one that is centred entirely on God. It is our expression of praise for all that God is - His holiness, majesty, love and greatness.
It's that mountaintop experience of being in the presence of the Creator of all that you see around you, or sitting through a truly wonderful performance of a sacred work which has transported your soul to another plain. Perhaps you see what I'm trying to explain?
Adoration comes from the heart, from our emotions; it's an expression of our inmost feelings.
(ii) CONFESSION: An awareness of God's presence within our worship naturally leads on to a feeling of our own unworthiness. In confession we acknowledge what we are and ask for forgiveness.
If these prayers are part of an act of public worship then it is appropriate to express the Christian conviction that we all share in the sin of humankind.
Any prayer of confession should properly express our belief that God offers the promise of forgiveness.
(iii) THANKSGIVING: Often lost within the package of prayer offered within worship is thanksgiving. It gets confused with adoration or simply ignored as prayers focus on intercession.
It is only right and proper that we should thank God for all that he has done. For the beauty of this world which he created, for the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promise of the Holy Spirit, his continuing creativity in the world today and for the Church - his body here on earth.
(iv) SILENCE: Silence is important, in that it allows us time to digest all that has been said through prayer. It gives us precious time within worship to let our hearts talk and our mouths stay silent.
As David Adam says 'It is not an empty time but a God-filled time when we open ourselves up to him.
A time of silence enables those worshipping to 'own' the prayers and make them their own. It also allows for active participation for those who would not feel able to contribute vocally.
Within the context of an act of worship there is often time set aside for intercessory prayer, and this naturally arises as a response to the hearing of God's word.
When we pray for others, we are adding our pleas to Christ's perfect prayer for the whole world.
'Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us'