What is an ‘Invocation’?

I’m writing this because I said one of these this morning and, while no one actually asked the question, I knew that several people in the audience were wondering. You’re welcome.

I think that a basic, working definition of invocation would be something like: a prayer before a business meeting or some other event that is not in and of itself worship. This feels about right. But, as with so many things in the life of faith, the deeper meaning of the word and the way we use it can make a big difference. Even if they are seemingly at odds.

Etymology geeks among us will recognize the root of the word invocation as having to do with calling or addressing. The prefix ‘in-‘ gives a sense of direction that nuances the plain meaning of the root into something more like “inviting” or “recognizing the current presence of.” In as much as the invocation is almost always a prayer of some sort, thus having to do with God, then the composite meaning of the word gives the sense of “inviting God into,” or “recognizing the existing presence of God in,” the meeting, gathering etc.

This in not always the sense that I get from listening to invocations. Most tend to be of more of a thanksgiving or intercessory nature – thanking God or asking God for this or another concern while he is wherever he is. But I think there is tremendous untapped potential here. A potential that I try to be mindful of whenever asked to give and invocation and one that I think might actually change the way we hold meetings if we spent a little more time focusing on.

What would our meetings look like if we actually believed that what we were doing was asking God to be a part of them? What would they ok like if we believed that he were already there?

Would we be more discerning? Would we be kinder to one another? Would it changed the decisions that we make? Would it cause us to be more efficient and stick to the agenda?

OK, maybe not the last one, that’s more of a pet peeve of mine.

In any case, it’s Roth a though. the next time you’re in a meeting that begins with an invocation, look for God. He is probably there whether invoked or not.

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