Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Liturgy Series Part VI: Prayers of the People

Prayer Candles
St Thomas Episcopal, Denver.   A. Hanson, 2012.
The prayers of the people are also a part of the Word section of the liturgy.  These prayers are addressed to God the creator, the first person of the Trinity.  The prayers of the people are of ALL the people, so we voice them in first person plural, using "we" language.  They are a collective prayer, offered aloud by one speaker. Different congregations have different ways of voicing these prayers. My home congregation in Denver provides the opportunity to write prayer petitions at a prayer station, which are then read aloud.  At my church here in St Paul, prayers are spoken aloud during an appointed time in the service.

Each congregation also has a distinct tone in their prayers of the people as well.  One of the things that I often notice when worshipping in more evangelical (less liturgical) churches is that there is a certain prayer vernacular.  Those in prayer will say something along the lines of "Jesus, I just want to thank you.  Jesus, I just want to ask that you..."

This is a pet peeve of mine.  This sort of prayer feels apologetic.  It makes one kiss the feet of God and does not boldly ask for anything.  Jesus gave us the Lord's prayer and instructs us how to pray in Luke 11:1-13.  We are told to "ask and it shall be given to you...for anyone who asks receives."  Jesus boldly asserts, "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"  We are commanded to pray for what we need and to ask boldly for it.

The prayers of the people include several general categories:

-For the church universal, its ministers and the mission of the Gospel
-For the care of creation
-For peace and justice in the world, the nations and those in authority
-For the poor, oppressed, marginalized, sick, bereaved, and lonely
-For all who suffer in mind, body, or spirit
-For the congregation and local and specific concerns
-For the faithful departed

I am in the process of writing the prayers of the people for the chapel service where I will preach next week. I am going to keep an eye on the liturgical propers for the day (certain prayers and prefaces), the news for current events, and any specific prayer requests for the seminary community.

up next...

Part VII: the sharing of the peace

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