At my church, I write out my "pastoral prayer" -- a sort of general purpose prayer in the standard liturgy of this local church. Here's an example from Christ the King Sunday and my rationale for parts of it:
Most gracious God, on this day in which we celebrate the reign of your Son in Heaven and Earth, we praise your name that we have a king who is faithful, just, and compassionate to his subjects. We thank you that you have ruled with such grace; for we have not deserved a merciful king, but a harsh and punishing one.
In classical collect prayers, a good prayer begins with depicting the attributes of God.
For Lord, although we have been created in your own image,
The Imago Dei is such an important doctrine that I mention it every Sunday.
we confess that we have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy.
This is our prayer of confession, lifted directly from the Service for Word and Table II. Confession should always proceed petition, so that our relationship to God is restored through justification.
And so gracious Father, we silently confess to you our transgressions.
Although we have corporate confession, we need a time of silent, individual confession as a weekly moment to be confronted by a just and holy God with our sins. It may be the only time that week a parishioner faces his/her sins, which makes it all the more important to include in the pastoral prayer. I generally count to twenty-five in my head before moving on.
Lord we make this confession with a contrite heart, but also with hope, for we know that the king has returned.
Confession is both a time of sorrow, but also one of joy, because we do not retain our sins.
We know that your Son Jesus the Christ came to earth to conquer sin and death and free us from chains of unholiness that we willingly shackled to ourselves. We accept the unearned, unmerited pardon of our king,
I have heard it said that Asbury teaches students a distorted view of atonement -- blood atonement alone. That's one reason why I've been consciously working in the other views of atonement into my pastoral prayers. This passage of the prayer will always express (1) the destruction of that sin and (2) that this change is unmerited.
and ask that you continue to give this lovingkindness to….
God's grace is manifest in not only healing us from sin, but healing us from bodily infirmity (the vast majority of prayer requests). This is how I transition into the specific prayer requests. I generally save the praise reports to the end, after expressing that these petitions are not lift up in vain, but that we make them with confidence because we have seen God's mighty hand at work.
And then we close with the Lord's Prayer.
How do pastoral prayers work at your church?