Praying for Unction

Unction isn’t a word you hear very often these days, but maybe that’s not such a good thing.

Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, recently shared on his blog about how his “heart burns” for God’s “sacred anointing”, or “unction”.

While his post is written for preachers, I wanted to share it here because worship leading is another form of preaching. Every week, worship leaders have 15, 20, 30, or more minutes to point their congregations to the greatness and glory of God in Jesus Christ through music. So, read this post and where you see the words “preaching” or “preachers” – insert “worship leading” or “worship leaders”. May we all pray for God’s sacred anointing, his unction, every single time we get up to lead.

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I’m a die-hard believer in unction. Unction is an old fashioned word which describes an effusion of power from the Holy Spirit as one preaches. It is the one thing preachers need above everything else. It is the accompanying power of the Spirit. This is what Charles Spurgeon dubbed “the sacred annointing.” It is power from on high.

In his book on the preaching of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Sacred Annointing, Tony Sargent describes unction well. He writes:

[Unction] is the afflatus of the Spirit resting on the speaker. It is the preacher gliding on eagles’ wings, soaring high, swooping low, carrying and being carried along by a dynamic other than his own. His consciousness of what is happening is not obliterated. He is not in a trance. He is being worked on but is aware that he is still working. He is being spoken through but he knows he is still speaking. The words are his but the facility with which they come compels him to realise that the source is beyond himself. The man is overwhelmed. He is on fire.

Oh how my heart burns for this sacred annointing, this unction! I hope and pray that preachers all over the world would spend much of their sermon preparation time begging God for this power on high. For, it is preachers who are borne along by the Holy Spirit that are used to effect a deep and sobering awareness of God and his truth that transforms.

In his book Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace, Iain Murray writes:

Preaching under the annointing of the Holy Spirit is preaching which brings with it a consciousness of God. It produces an impression upon the hearer that is altogether stronger than anything belonging to the circumstances of the occasion. Visible things fall into the background; the surroundings, the fellow worshippers, even the speaker himself, all become secondary to an awareness of God himself. Instead of witnessing a public gathering, the hearer receives the conviction that he is being addressed personally, and with an authority greater than that of a human messenger.

Given the fact that the ultimate factor in the church’s engagement with society is the church’s engagement with God, my earnest prayer is that, for the sake of the world, more preachers would come to know and understand what Andrew Bonar meant when he wrote: “It is one thing to bring truth from the Bible, and another to bring it from God himself through the Bible.”

Please pray, dear friends, that God would annoint my mind and mouth on Sunday as I preach so that God’s people would hear from God. Please pray that God’s Spirit would so inhabit my words that everyone would leave worship tomorrow being able to say, “God was surely in that place.”

I can’t manufacture unction regardless of how well crafted my sermon is and how well prepared I may be. The biggest work must come from God.

So, come thou fount of every blessing and do for your people what I cannot. Amen.

Read Tullian’s post here.

What Do I Pray After a Song?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray after a song, if, as the worship leader you’re expected to pray in order to conclude a time of singing or transition into a different part of the service.

There are many ways you can handle this. Sometimes you can leave a period of silence, to encourage people to wait on the Lord and cherish his presence. After some time passes you can briefly pray and encourage people to be seated afterwards. Other times you might feel led to thank God for something you’ve been made freshly aware of as you’ve sung. Sometimes I don’t think I need to add anything at all, so I’ll just say “amen” after a few seconds of lingering on the last chord of a song.

But you don’t always have to make something up on the fly. Reading from Scripture is a great way to “pray” after a song, or reading a pre-written prayer.

This past Sunday we finished our opening time of singing with the familiar Tim Hughes song “Here I Am to Worship”. I would typically be the one to pray after the last song, but on this particular Sunday I looked over at John Yates, my pastor, and he signaled that he wanted to pray instead.

He got up and read an ancient prayer, called the Te Deum laudamus, In the Anglican church this is found in our Book of Common Prayer and in many churches it’s read almost every Sunday. As he prayed, I kept playing piano just to help give a bit of support. (I don’t always play background music when I or someone else prays, but sometimes it seems like it would be helpful.)

Here’s a clip of the song ending and then John closing the time of singing with the prayer.

You are God: we praise you; You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father: All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not shun the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting.

Don’t get into a rut of praying the same thing every Sunday after a time of singing. There is a time for silence, for spontaneous prayer, for expressing gratefulness to God, for reading Scripture, and for taking advantage of the amazing prayers that have been passed down from generations of faithful Christians.