April 11, 2019
Episco-fact/Francisco-fact: Are there ways that the laity can be more involved in the Prayers of the People?
The Episcopal Church has a long tradition of very beautiful, and very formal, prayers. In addition to being written with powerful poetic components, our prayers seem to be drafted with all sorts of contingencies in mind: Third Sunday of Advent—Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
As exemplified by this prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent, the language is glorious but also intimidating because few speak like that (and probably few ever did). With this kind of challenge, we often just say nothing.
We have an experiment for those who wish to exercise their public prayer muscles, and for those who do not. We are going to give ourselves a chance in the season of Easter, the Great Fifty Days to pray with individual voices. Starting Easter Sunday, we will be using as our basic prayer form, Prayers of the People, IV, starting on page 392 of the BCP. In Form IV, after a series of responsive prayers covering all the areas required by the Rubrics: the Universal Church, its members and mission; the Nation and all in authority; the welfare of the world; concerns of the local community, those who suffer or are in trouble; and the departed; there are three prompts for the People to add their own prayers. The first prompt is: "for the special needs and concerns of this congregation." There will be time to add your own concerns out loud. The second prompt is: "We thank you Lord for all the blessings of this life," to which you may give thanks, out loud. The third prompt begins, "We pray for all who have died." To this prompt, the people are encouraged to add their prayers for those who died as known to each.
This prayer form requires only that we think in terms of the needs of the world, the thanksgivings we have in our hearts, and for those who we know as having died. The prayers can be one word long. Eloquence is not required, loving concern and heartfelt thanks, are however, helpful.
In addition to providing the People the ability to exercise their public prayer capabilities, this structure also allows for more concerns, more names to be stated, and more thanksgiving to be voiced than anyone composer of the Prayers of the People can possibly hope to know and cover.
This is a seven-week trial. Let us pray it takes hold. Then, we can start composing prayers using a voice consistent with that of St. Francis Church.