Dear Friends in Christ—
“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples . . .” (Luke 11:1)
The request of Jesus’s friends raises the question: is there a right way to pray? And, if so, how do we figure it out?
You might ask this question about personal prayer, and there are a whole lot of books and podcasts and blogs that can help you figure out it. It’s important and worth your time to think about.
My interest, however, is not with the prayer of one person, but with the Prayers of the People.
My job is to think about how we pray together.
This question has been foregrounded by the crisis in Ukraine. We all know we need to be praying, but how? With the help of Stephanie Reed and Kemp Williams, the leads for our worship program, I have decided to include a collect for peace from the Book of Common Prayer in our liturgy. We will pray it each week at the end of the Prayers of the People, together, showing our common sorrow and concern for this war of aggression.
One of the concerns that Stephanie and Kemp and I voiced, in coming up with this plan, was the “what about . . .” problem. (What about war elsewhere? What about the climate? Why one thing and not another?). Our feeling is that the parish is not served by an ever-proliferating list of concerns. We save extraordinary prayer, like this one, for extraordinary situations.
But—I want to remind you that that the Prayers of the People are just that—of the people, not of the altar party or the intercessor. I invite and encourage you to name the concerns in your hearts. You can call them aloud, you can name them under your breath, you can simply know them in your soul. God is the audience for those prayers, and God hears them all.
In the end, of course, the most important aspect of our prayers is not their form but their fervor. And I commend this prayer for peace to you, fervently, in this dangerous time:
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no
strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples
may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be
dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
Yours in Christ,