Sunday, August 15, 2010

Prep Prayers

One of my favorite prayers comes from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. I happen to like it in the Edwardian English of its time. It’s titled “For the Spirit of Prayer.”

"ALMIGHTY God, who pourest out on all who desire it, the spirit of grace and of supplication; Deliver us, when we draw nigh to thee, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with stedfast thoughts and kindled affections, we may worship thee in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

It’s a worthwhile prayer to ask that we might pray passionately and minus as many distractions as we can reasonably shut out. One does not “draw nigh” to the Almighty casually. It’s an act one has to warm up to. And it takes some focus. A warm heart and concentrated mind are worth praying for before you pray.* We should pray before the service actually begins, in preparation for our fullest participation in the main event.

Entering into the worship of Almighty God usually requires a shift of gears: from our individual lives to a corporate experience; from mundane and trivial values to divine eternal truths; from our own selfishness to learning of God’s generosity; and so forth. Sometimes it is not an easy transition. So we need to pray before we pray, a prayer preparing us to worship God in prayer.

This prayer, in an up-dated revised form, is one of some 45 models provided in a section called “Prayers for Use Before Worship” in The Book of Common Worship (1993) (pp. 17-30). They call us to get ready in advance for the time of worship on the Lord’s Day, or any time for that matter. Some of them you might offer up to get yourself in the right frame of mind and heart
even before you pray privately, just as we are supposed to do before we worship corporately.

The practice of prep prayer that is urged here for everyone is especially important for those who compose liturgy. Writing prayers for church congregations is a shuddering responsibility. Not only do we approach God, but we are brazen enough to suppose we can find prayerful language for others.

So here’s another pre-prayer, a confession worship leaders might offer at their desks on Saturday night. It comes from The Worshipbook (page 202).

"Almighty God: you have no patience with solemn assemblies, or heaped-up prayers to be heard by people. Forgive those who have written prayers for congregations. Remind them that their foolish words will pass away, but that your word will last and be fulfilled, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

How do you prepare for worship? Are specific prayers suggested for worshippers? If you are a worship leader, how do you get ready for preparing worship? How do you prepare for your own daily prayers?

* Halford Luccock in Living Without Gloves (Oxford University Press, 1957—pp. 94-95), suggested that the opposite of coldness of heart and wandering of mind would be a cool mind and a wandering heart—also worth praying for if we want to think clearly and reach out with heartfelt empathy.

1 comment:

  1. In my congregation, we start with a lay leader welcoming all and asking for important announcements, which usually gets people into their pews (finally) and signals the start of the service. Next we have a brief time of prayer/meditation (one is printed in the bulletin). At this time there is an appropriate organ selection, replacing a prelude (no one listens anyway) which provides somewhat of a peaceful background for individual prayer.


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