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Leading a Prayer Service

16 Things to Consider

Communal prayer is when two or more people gather together to raise their minds and hearts to God. A prayer service is a form of communal prayer that follows a set order with designated parts (Leader, Reader, All).

In general, prayer services follow a basic pattern.

Gathering/introduction—song, greeting, opening prayer

The Word of God—Scripture reading, response, silence

Shared prayer—petitions, traditional prayers, litanies, composed prayers, and so on

Conclusion—closing prayer, blessing, song

In addition, a prayer service may include nonverbal expressions such as gesture and ritual.

As a catechist, you will be called upon to lead prayer services from time to time. Here are some things to consider when leading such services.

The Role of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit guides all prayer. Prayer leaders do not perform, but offer themselves as a vehicle of the Spirit for those at prayer. Pray to the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire you.


Prayer services should always involve the Word of God so that participants can listen to God speaking to them.


Singing and instrumental music are not just frosting on the cake. They are essential ingredients in prayer services.


Introduce elements into the environment to create a greater awareness of the sacred. Consider candles (when appropriate), dimmed lights, enthroned Bible, cross, and objects from nature such as flowers, rocks, and shells.

Assembly Participation

Don't think of what just you are doing during prayer. Ask yourself what the assembly is doing. Be sure to involve the assembly as a whole in the prayer, not just those taking the Leader or Reader roles.

Nonverbal Elements

Consider the elements of movement and gesture (procession, bowing, venerating the Bible, outstretching hands, laying on hands, blessing) and of symbols (water, oil) as well as of silence.

Verbal Elements

Follow and borrow from the prayer of the Church (Roman Missal, Liturgy of the Hours): introductory rites, psalm responses, antiphons, penitential acts, collects, intercessions, and blessings. These prayers are rich and evocative and therefore, powerful.

Liturgical Feasts and Seasons

Pay special attention to the time of the liturgical year (Advent, Lent, feasts, solemnities) when selecting themes and prayers.

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