At the beginning of every Divine Service, just after the call to worship, we stand together and call upon the Lord in a prayer called the “invocation.” What is the invocation and why do we do this?
To invoke someone or something means to appeal to that person or thing for help. In the ancient world, when kings made covenants with each other, a lesser king (the vassal) had the privilege of calling upon a greater king (the suzerain) for help if, for example, an invading army threatened his land. He could invoke his covenant privilege and receive help from the greater king with whom he was in covenant. Of course, such a covenant also meant that he must be loyal to the suzerain and not go behind his back to make secret treaties with other kings.
In a similar way, we call upon our Great King for help when we invoke his name at the beginning of the Divine Service. The prayer of invocation is not an empty ritual, but a covenant privilege. We are actually calling upon the living God who has made a covenant with us through the Lord Jesus Christ. He summons his covenant people in the call to worship. We then stand together in reverence and awe, recognizing the authority of our Suzerain. We call upon his name and confess that our help is not in ourselves or in the false gods of this present evil age, but “our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124.8). We ask him to receive our worship, nourish our souls, and bear fruit in our lives to his glory. We humble ourselves before his majesty and cry for help. He responds with open and uplifted hands, pronouncing a blessing upon us in the salutation: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Gal 1.3-4).
As we participate in the invocation every Lord’s Day, let us remember that God’s people have done this since the days of Adam and his son Seth: “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4.26). Let us exercise the covenant privilege that Christ has purchased for us. May our hearts be encouraged and filled with joy because of God’s promise: “They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
~ Pastor Brown