Usually, it is taken for granted that prayer should be part of the Christian worship experience. A few hymns put this into words. Fred Pratt Green, whose hymns often reveal a strong sense of the structure and meaning to be found in traditional forms of gathered worship, begins one hymn: God is here! As we his people / meet to offer praise and prayer” (StF 25).
John Bell and Graham Maule say something similar (StF 28):
Jesus calls us here to meet him
as, through word and song and prayer,
we affirm God’s promised presence
where his people live and care.
But it isn’t simply that times of prayer are normally, and should be, included within an act of worship. Our gathering as a worshipping community is itself an act of prayerfulness as well as an affirmation of our desire to pray.
This idea comes through in Graham Kendrick’s song, You’re calling us / and so we’re gathered here (StF 37). He goes on: “You’re building us / into a house of prayer.” Through the offering of our lives, he suggests that “prayer will rise / for all nations” and that this will happen best when every individual – whatever his or her situation – knows they are welcome to join in Christian gathering and activity.
When we gather from our different backgrounds and contexts, “sharing stories of grace”, then “praises rise / from the offering of our lives” and we are reminded of Reginald Heber’s image: Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee (StF 11). Our lives become tokens of our love for God, and the offering of them becomes an act of prayerful praise.