Saturday, March 5, 2011

Common Prayer

I recently acquired a copy of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Its quite daunting if you come from an evangelical background. I have very limited experience with the idea of liturgy or "common prayer" (that is, written prayers everyone says together), but the experience I've had has been deeply meaningful. I'm currently learning how to pray The Daily Office.

Some people scoff at the idea of "canned" prayers. I used to be one of them. I used to think them worthless, the work of men, uninspired & unnecessary. I used to think the idea of praying from a book was old fashioned, restricting, and lacking faith in the Living God. It seemed empty... a discipline one held for the sake of appearances or tradition.

Common, by virtue of popular definition means anything ordinary, mediocre, or merely acceptable. That is, it happens all the time, every one does it, its nothing new. However, the primary definition of "common" actually means "belonging to & equally shared by two or more or all in question".

I have plenty of experience with evangelical prayer meetings. More often than not, they're common by popular definition. They're dull, dry times the faithful few get together to sing some songs & pray for the church. We pray for families, we pray for finances. We pray for the healing of hurting backs, aching feet, wounded hearts. And then we go home, having perhaps cried some tears or received some uplifting encouragement from a friend. I admittedly leave bleary eyed, ready for a nap! We call this corporate prayer because we've all gathered together for a common purpose: to call on the name of the Lord on behalf of ourselves & each other. I've scarcely known anything else & I'm not trying to discourage these types of prayer meetings. However, discovering the practice of common prayer has become an anchor for me in the endless sea of prayer requests & intercessions, even my own.

Its a comfort to know that others in the world are praying the very same words. There's time to be silent, to reflect & meditate, to confess sins, & to receive forgiveness. There's time to read the Word, to offer thanksgivings & praises as well as intercessions. Most of the prayers come from the Bible. Others come from ancient creeds & services. All are meant to inspire the heart Godward. I experience the prayers in different ways daily. Because life happens, I don't pray the same every time. This keeps the experience "fresh", alive, & breathes new life into my weary bones. Its been a challenge to learn, but well worth it.

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