‘Praying’ Prayers.

Yesterday (Good Friday, 2014) I joined many other local Christians of different denominations in the annual Good Friday ‘procession of witness’ through our village. This begins with a 20 minute service at the Roman Catholic Church; the congregation, of maybe one hundred, then silently moves on in double file, with someone carrying a large wooden cross at the front, to the Anglican Church, where another short service takes place. And finally, the procession snakes its way back through the village to the Methodist Church, where another 20 minute service ends the morning. During the outdoor processing, the traffic is seriously held up on two occasions and it would be difficult for anyone in, or passing through, the village, not to notice it. Of course, behind the procession is an unspoken announcement ‘we Christians are still here in this village, and we want to remind you what this day is really about!’

So far so good. But the one thing at such events which bothers me is the fact that throughout the morning, not a word of prayer was spoken which wasn’t read out from printed sheets. This is so typical of the big denominations of course, but I always wonder… is this really prayer? And if these words are prayers, how can I make them my own too? Someone once said that we shouldn’t ‘say’ prayers, but ‘pray’ them. This seems so true for the individual; but how can we apply this principle to large, corporate services? And would it really always be more meaningful if the person leading the service prayed in an extemporary fashion?

I don’t have any clever answers to such questions. Maybe you do and would like to post a reply here? But the most important thing to remember is this; whatever type of service you take part in over the next couple of days, and however you understand prayer in such situations, have no doubt that Christ is Risen! Have a blessed and joyous Easter!

  1. Hi Chris,
    I do not have clever answers either but I beleive that it comes down to the heart – a cliche answer I know but there is a truth in this. For instance, if the speaker is sincerely involved in what he is saying, rather than simply reading, people may also receive in the same way when hearing. Also, the Holy Spirit may use the speaker’s words to pierce the hearer’s heart. This was my own experience near to salvation in a somewhat formal situation. On the other hand, I can’t help but notice throughout the Bible that the Lord God responded to a crying out from his people, the Jews. I wonder if we, with our western world comfort, as bad as it is, and also preoccupation with self-image, have not felt the need to communicate with our God in this way. Having said this, it would not be something that one should introduce as formal or ritual but maybe the congregation should have a moment to be able to express their hearts to God coming together. I understand this presents many problems and then also in the open situation you present.

    Blessings

  2. Chris Lazenby

    Hi Marylin
    Yes, I agree with your message. I use ‘ready made’ prayers myself. Indeed, I use many of the psalms as prayers… God’s written liturgy! But often in public prayers, I feel a ‘disconnection’ quite often, which I don’t get when praying alone.

    I think you’re right about space for ‘open prayer’ in a service, but I’m afraid most Anglicans, Methodists, RCs etc, would quail at such an idea. Here, there seems to me to be an element of the service almost being a ‘performance’ where the congregation are the ‘audience’ (indeed, I often hear people refer to the congregation as the audience). I’ve never felt sure ‘what is going on’ in large church prayers of this kind, which are read or recited. Thanks for your post Marylin.

  3. Hi Chris,
    The Psalms are indeed wonderful to use to communicate to God and I too often feel a disconnection in public prayer when compared to the prayer closet. Out of respect to the various denominations, I think it is a topic too complex and vast to cover here but on the other hand, it is good to be able to discuss it so openly. In terms of heart-involvement, blind Bartimaeus (recognising who Jesus was)cried out. He actually croaked and screamed for mercy (Mk.10:47). In Paul’s teaching concerning the flesh, the same word is used when we cry out Abba Father (Rom.8:15). Again, when Jesus’ disciples watched his acension to the Mount of Olives (Lk.19:35-40) they croaked and screamed in praise. I realise that this would be a problem for many, and has been for some churches. Also, these examples are not of liturgy nor necesarily of personal prayer, but they do reveal desperate hearts in need of God, and those rejoicing in who he is. Perhaps this is what is missing in us today when we come together to worship him and pray. I wonder. Lastly, in all fairness, one can also experience being part of an audience, forced to watch entertainment, in some large churches where there is no formal prayer and where there is supposedly freedom of expression. In fact, one can come away with the feeling of being quite used. It takes me back to my original post here; unless the heart is involved can it be
    fruitless?

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