And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
A friend of mine asked someone where she went to church. She didn’t go anymore, because her ex-husband would pretend to be a good Christian at church, but would come home and be verbally abusive to his wife and kids. He told them that when they were at church they had to be good, so he didn’t look bad. I’m sure he was excited when on occasion the pastor or Sunday School teacher might ask him to close the service in prayer, and that people told him his prayers “were a blessing.” But his hypocrisy drove his family away from church, and away from God.
Leading in prayer in church is not wrong, but it is a serious responsibility.
Public praying is a responsibility as well as a privilege. In the last century, the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon did not mind sharing his pulpit: others sometimes preached in his home church even when he was present. But when he came to the “pastoral prayer,” if he was present, he reserved that part of the service for himself. This decision did not arise out of any priestly conviction that his prayers were more efficacious than those of others. Rather, it arose from his love for his people, his high view of prayer, his conviction that public praying should not only intercede with God but also instruct and edify and encourage the saints.
D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Baker, 1992), 34-35.