The Lost and Missing Prayers Column with Josh Lavender
A few years ago, I was at dinner in California with two dear friends, Andrea Hunter and Lester Ruth. Lester has done amazing work analyzing CCLI data to find trends and recognize both what churches are singing, and what we’re not. As we talked about worship that night, the conversation led us to a topic that resonated deeply with all three of us—lost and missing things in our worship services. We talked about the kinds of prayers and songs that seemed to disappear over the decades, and Andrea suggested we end by asking the Lord if there was something he wanted us to do about it.
The Poets Released
Since that dinner there have been a series of songwriting retreats that my own church, Trinity Wesleyan Church, has been hosting in Indianapolis. At these retreats we’ve asked worship scholars to help us revisit faithful lyrics, and release poets and artists to bring new life to sung prayers—worship songs—that are lost or missing.
In the spirit of this vision, this column, “Lost and Missing Prayers” will look for the themes that need renewal or rediscovery and invite worship leaders and songwriters to fill the gaps with new worship songs! There are many different layers of lost and missing prayers. Sometimes a certain type of song might be present in one congregation and not another. Different Christian movements emphasize different parts of the faith, so what might be lost or missing in one movement could be very much alive in another. In this column we will highlight different themes of sung prayer that we believe are lost or missing, themes that have the potential to richly bless God’s people. We want to invite you on this journey to search for the gems of the past and rediscover them for the Church today.
SHINING LIGHT AT HOME
Maybe there’s something lost and missing in your church. Many great songs are written because there’s something a particular congregation needs to pray at a certain time. For example, I think of Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship” or Desperation Band’s “Overcome.” These songs were written in response to a local congregation’s need. It seems like God breathed on both of these songs and sent them all over the world, but they were written for a specific season with particular people in mind. C. S. Lewis reminds us that “the light that shines the farthest shines brightest nearest home.”
Dr. Constance Cherry, one of my worship teachers, always encouraged her students to take reverently the task of putting words on the lips and in the hearts of God’s people. It is the role of worship leaders and songwriters to be sensitive to both what God is saying in His word and by His Spirit, and to what the community needs in a particular moment. We get the blessed work of holding both the Scriptures and the community and humbly offering weekly scripts to put God and his people in conversation.
May God make us sensitive to what might be lost or missing in the sung prayers of our people.