8 Tips On Delivering An Invocation
This morning, I was privileged to offer the invocation at the Dallas City Council’s regular Wednesday session. Although invocations of this sort are usually brief (I was allotted one to two minutes), I believe we as Pastors, Ministers, and just Christians overall shouldn’t approach this task casually, but rather with appropriate seriousness and thoughtful preparation. So, coming away from this opportunity, I had a few thoughts that came to mind that I hope will serve to help us steward these moments well.
1. Dress for the occasion
I know, pretty obvious. But you have to know me to know why I would even bother to mention this. There was a time when I would wear whatever I wanted and could care less about dressing for the occasion (with the exception of funerals and weddings…well, maybe just funerals.). But I guess my father’s advice, along with my wife’s loving admonishment, finally began to settle a little on me a few years back – I said, a little, not a lot. In essence and in my words, what they impressed upon me was this: Dress the part so as to not distract from the purpose for which you are there. In other words, there are times in which we should put aside our tastes for a greater task.
Listen, I am not a suit guy…at least not at this moment. I don’t have anything against wearing them. It’s just not my preference. Put me in some jeans and a t-shirt or some urban/business casual or prep outfit and I am good! But I knew going into this City Council meeting that those in attendance would be in business attire and that it would probably be best for me to follow suit to at least demonstrate courtesy.
2. Arrive early
Whatever time the meeting is scheduled to take place, plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. As far as it depends on you, don’t put yourself in a position where you have to apologize for your tardiness to a room full of dignitaries who had to stand around waiting on your arrival to begin the meeting.
If punctuality is the politeness of kings, then it is no less true of us commoners. Don’t get there on time; arrive early.
3. Express appreciation
Be sure to publicly thank whoever was responsible for extending the invite to you to come and give the invocation. See this opportunity as a privilege and honor because, after all, they could have chosen someone else. Leave all sense of entitlement at the door.
4. Honor the time limit
If they give you 2 minutes max, don’t pray longer than that. Yes, our local, state, and federal government officials need prayer, lots of it, but that is not the time to hold an impromptu altar call, inviting them to hold hands or to stretch them out towards the American flag, or to make their way to the podium where you stand, or to walk around and anoint each representative with oil and lay hands on them. Okay, I am being facetious, but you get the point.
They have business to attend to, so please keep it short and sweet.
5. Write out your prayer (and if necessary, read it at the podium)
Last night, I stayed up and meticulously wrote and edited my prayer. Why? Two reasons: 1. I wanted to make sure that I did #4 on the list, and so doing this would afford me the opportunity to rehearse to see if my prayer would fall within the time constraints, and 2. I didn’t want to risk praying extemporaneously, which could have given room for me to trip up on my words or to forget them altogether because of nerves. So I wrote my prayer out to ensure that I was clear and concise.
And, yes, I read my prayer while at the podium. Unless you have strong memorization ability, you will probably forget a few words or mix them up, especially if it is your first time, as it was mine. Better to be safe than sorry. And by the way, reading your prayer is no less fervent or genuine.
6. Pray, don’t preach!
We are to be praying TO God FOR our leaders. This is not the time to careen off into a litany of exhortations or “close” with Calvary and Early Easter Sunday Morning (my fellow African-American pastors/preachers – as well as any of those who have spent time in a traditional black church – know what I am talking about here).
7. Pray, don’t politicize!
It is my contention that it is best to stay above the political fray in your prayer. I would humbly suggest the more suitable route would be to pray a general prayer of wisdom, guidance, and integrity for all elected officials as they manage the affairs of the city, state, or nation.
8. Pray and sit down!
To many, what I am about to say is obvious, but it needs to be said. You have been entrusted to stand in the chamber to offer prayer. Once you have discharged that responsibility, sit down. Do not stand up at the podium afterwards and attempt to address the council, or whomever is present, with a statement or a proposition. Don’t take liberties that have not been rightly afforded to you. If you have issues which you would like for the council to address, follow the appropriate protocol.
Pray and quietly take your seat…and you just might be invited back. If nothing else, you will leave knowing that you honored God by faithfully and wisely handling this opportunity.
Bonus: Pray and say His name! Obviously, you won’t be able to plumb the depths of the Gospel in your prayer or extend an invitation for people to respond in repentance and faith, but there are ways to point people to our God and Savior, Jesus, as you will see I tried to do at the conclusion of my prayer below.
To the only eternal God and Father of The Lord Jesus:
I come this morning thanking you for each elected official that occupies a seat on this council, and the other officials and staff that make up our city government.
God, according to Romans 13 of the Christian Scriptures, we know there is no authority except from you, and those that exist have been instituted by you.
I pray today that the members of this council will continually understand and embrace this truth: that ultimately it was not the will of the people that placed them in these positions of power but it was due to your divine prerogative.
May they have an acute awareness that all their deliberations (in heart and on record) and their decisions are ever before you to whom they must give an account.
May they, therefore, seek to carry out this sacred trust with all integrity, veracity, and equity.
Grant them the wisdom they need to handle the affairs of this city in a way that promotes peace and prosperity for all its citizens.
And lastly, grace them with the personal discipline to remain qualified for office during their terms of service.
I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Soon-To-Return King and Judge of heaven and earth. Amen.