1) Before the event
If you are doing the intercessions, you should be invited before the service to the vestry prayers. Carpe diem is the motto here. Be the first in the huddle to pray and do so fervently. Get yourself some cracking openers and closers to your prayers. The Book of Common Prayer has some belters. Memorise these. They make your prayers sound pious and deep and the quality of your words in the middle then becomes inconsequential. Use plenty of thees, thys, and thous, again to add sanctity. For example, use ‘We beseech thee’ instead of ‘We ask.’ Make sure you offer a resounding Amen to everyone else’s prayers and be sure to be the last one in the vestry to pray. You’re now on fire for the service.
This is your big break. Aim for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. With practice and good preparation, you can work this up higher. Challenge yourself to make it longer than the sermon. After all, no-one is going to stop you midstream whilst you are at prayer. And buy a good stop watch. This way you can aim to improve your personal best on each occasion.
Get your name on the intercessions rota twice. In this way your turn comes round more often.
Make good lists of those to pray for. It is customary in some churches to start with the sovereign. This is ideal as you can then work your way down the church hierarchy – the archbishops, diocesan bishops, archdeacons, rural deans, local vicars, and you can include other local churches and denominations too, taking care to omit any dubious door-knocking sects. Don’t forget the local schools, and the Fire Department and health services – hospitals and local doctor’s surgeries add nicely to the list and should all be named individually. Also, aim to include your own specific concerns such as Transgender Rights for North Sea Trawler Men or the East Midlands Chihuahua Rescue Centre, whatever your personal crusades are. This brings important personal issues to the congregation’s attention.
5) Use an IPad or tablet
This not only makes you look cool and modern but you can cross reference your prayers with poems, bible references and so on, so that you can draw on additional materials. You can also draw up a nice analogy with Moses’ tablets of stone (a little humour always works well and shows your human side) and hence build in a little mini-sermon on how you are just like Moses bringing God’s word to his people. Nice touch, eh?
6) The Sick
Get to church early and go round everyone to ask who is sick and needs prayer. Everyone will be so astounded by your empathetic concern for the unwell that they will each give you at least 3 or 4 names, even if it’s only for ingrowing toenails or a cold. And voilà, you have another great list for prayer. Make sure to make careful notes to avoid praying for recovery for Joe Bloggs from his recent hysterectomy. In fact a basic knowledge of medical complaints is advisable. The best advice is to avoid anything to do with the nether regions or ‘down there.’ For some reason, piles are always a cause of great hilarity.
7) Pray for the church
Don’t forget the oft neglected folk on tea rotas, maintenance teams, knitting circles etc. and check that your list of names is up to date. This is also a great point to have a swipe at the vicar, church leaders or any other group that’s got on your nerves recently. Subtlety is the best weapon, a hint or innuendo is all that is needed to rattle the opposition. So, if you’re after the flower arrangers, thank them for all their hard work and say how nice it will be to have some fresh blooms in the church next week. Also include here any personal agenda items that have been ignored by the church council. Pray for them to happen. For instance your idea for building a mixed-sex prayer sauna room in the church hall would fit nicely in this slot. And include the minutiae of your idea so that it gets a proper public airing – for instance your suggestion for two separate saunas one for the evangelicals, one for the liberals.
8) Maintaining attention
You want everyone to hang on your every word. Therefore don’t include any congregational responses as this distracts from the articulate nature of your flow. Likewise avoid any periods of silence. You want people to listen to your prayers, and not go all reflective and meditative on you.
Yes, it would be a nice opportunity to show off your PowerPoint skills but remember everyone’s eyes will be firmly closed and you’d only have to describe what is on each slide, so not a good idea.
And finally the golden rule. Never be disappointed if you don’t receive loud congratulations over coffee after the service and in fact find people are avoiding you. This is quite common and associated with their jealousy at your efforts. It is actually a great accolade and should spur you on to even greater things.