Prayer In Corporate Worship -- By: Thomas R. McKibbens

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:2 (Spring 1990)
Article: Prayer In Corporate Worship
Author: Thomas R. McKibbens

Prayer In Corporate Worship

Thomas R. McKibbens

Pastor, Metropolitan Baptist Church
Cambridge, Massachusetts

In the latter part of the Book of Psalms there are fifteen short “Songs of Ascent”—songs written as worshippers made the journey to the temple in Jerusalem. These Songs of Ascent begin in solitude and end in corporate worship. The first one, for example, is Psalm 120, which begins:

In my distress I cry to the Lord,

that he may answer me;

Deliver me, O Lord,

from lying lips,

from a deceitful tongue.

Far more familiar are the opening verses of the next psalm (121):

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From whence does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

Here are the private prayers of a pilgrim on the way to worship. But soon the mood of the psalms changes. By the time we come to the end of the “Songs of Ascent,” the worship is corporate, not private:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like precious oil upon the head,

running down upon the beard,

upon the beard of Aaron,

running down the collar of his robes!

(Psalm 133:1–2)

And the last is even more corporate in tone:

Come, bless the Lord,

all you servants of the Lord,

who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place,

and bless the Lord!

(Psalm 134:1–2)

From a single soul crying out in distress on the way to worship (Psalm 120), we move to the final image of hundreds of hands lifted up to God in corporate prayer (Psalm 134). The spiritual needs of the individual are at the beginning; the corporate confidence of the congregation is at the end.

Worship As Individual and Corporate

We all live in the tension of individual and corporate, private and public, I-ness and we-ness, autonomy and community. Spirituality is frequently described in private terms, as if spiritual gro...

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