How does the worship service begin?

As we continue to talk about corporate worship, the next question to consider is “how should the order of worship be structured?” In my previous blog post, I talked about the regulative principle of worship.  In this post, I am going to begin to work through each element of our service.  In particular, we are going to look at the call to worship, the prayer of invocation, and God’s greeting.  I pray that as we study the elements of worship, our hearts and minds will give praise and adoration to the Christ that we worship!  I also pray that we will understand that the Word of God requires that we include certain elements in worship.  As I begin, it may be helpful to look below at the liturgy we use on Sunday mornings.  I hope you will see that the elements in the order of worship come from God’s Word.

Call to Worship

Prayer of Invocation

God’s Greeting

Song of Praise

Reading of the Law

Prayer of Confession

Declaration of Pardon

Song of Response

Confession of Faith

Pastoral Prayer

Song of Preparation

Prayer for Illumination



Prayer of Application

Song of Response


God’s Benediction


In our bulletin, the first element in the corporate worship service each week is the call to worship.  Worship is a divine drama, as God speaks to his people and is present with us by the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps you have heard of the “dialogical principle,” which means that worship is a dialogue between God and his people.  The divine drama begins with the Triune God of Scripture speaking to us by calling his assembled people to worship. 

Passages used for the call to worship focus on giving praise for the faithfulness and redemptive work of our covenant God.  The call to worship is our assurance that God is with us.  The call to worship is usually taken from a Psalm (Psalm 66; 95; 98; 100; 105), but can also include passages such as Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-25; 12:18-24.  The call to worship, then, comes right from the Bible.  Often, the Psalm that is used for the call to worship is then sung by the people of God as a song of praise. 

Throughout the service, God speaks to his people and pours out his grace upon us, and his people respond in praise and prayer.  As we worship, we must always ask if God is speaking to us or if we are responding to God.  Worship is not a discussion between those in the congregation, but rather corporate worship is a holy conversation between God and his people.  The divine service begins as our Triune God calls us to worship as the pastor reads a passage of Scripture. 

The prayer of invocation is the next part of the covenant renewal ceremony between God and his people.  The covenant renewal ceremony takes place every Lord’s Day as God renews his covenant of grace with his children through Christ.  In the prayer of invocation, we call upon the name of the Lord and pray that Christ will be present with us by his Holy Spirit as we worship (Psalm 124:8).  In the prayer of invocation, we enter God’s courts with praise (Psalm 100:4).  Praise is the gateway into God’s presence, as one theologian says.  Thus, the prayer of invocation occurs early in the liturgy and it focuses the hearts of the congregation on praising God. 

The prayer of invocation is an example of God’s people responding to God.  We pray that God will inhabit the praises of his people.  The prayer of invocation is the initial prayer of the service, as we invoke the presence of the Triune God in the name of Christ. In this prayer, we ask God for his presence and favor in worship, and praise him for his works of creation and redemption.  The prayer of invocation involves the minister asking for the help of the Holy Spirit in our worship so that we might worship with reverence and awe (Hebrews12:28) and in Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).  Thus, once again we see that the elements of corporate worship are grounded in Scripture. 

The next element in corporate worship is God’s greeting to his people.  Like the call to worship, the greeting is an example of God speaking to his people.  In the greeting, the ordained minister raises his hands as the ambassador of God and blesses the people with God’s promise of salvation.  The greeting comes directly from passages such as Romans 1:7;  Galatians 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; and Revelation 1:4-5.  So, again we see that the elements of our service come from God’s Word.

For more on Reformed worship see W. Robert Godfrey, Pleasing God in our Worship (Wheaton: Crossway, 1999); Michael Horton, A Better Way (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002); Darryl G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe (Phillipsburg,N.J.: P & R Publishing, 2002).

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