Liturgical Prayer: Practice

Liturgical prayer is ritual verbal praise, confession, thanksgiving, and/or petition that we offer to God, often in the company of other pray-ers.

1. Choose a liturgical prayer to practice. Two prayers from the Book of Common Prayer are printed here.14 They are known as “suffrages” or short intercessory prayers that are usually spoken in a series. You may be aware of similar, often repeated  prayers from your church. Some churches, for example, lay out Psalms at the back of their hymnals for antiphonal reading. Other collections of prayers are listed in the Study Further section below.

Rite II: Evening Prayer, Suffrage A
Show us your mercy, O Lord;
And grant us your salvation.
Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
Let your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in you can we live in safety.
Lord, keep this nation under your care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let your way be known upon earth;
Your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

Rite II: Evening Prayer, Suffrage B
That this evening may be holy, good, and peaceful,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That your holy angels may lead us in paths of peace and goodwill,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may be pardoned and forgiven for our sins and offenses,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That there may be peace to your Church and to the whole world,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may depart this life in your faith and fear, and not be condemned before the great judgment seat of Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.
That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit in the communion of all your saints, entrusting one another and all our life to Christ,
We entreat you, O Lord.

2. Read the words of the written prayer to yourself slowly. Do not skim. Especially if you are familiar with the prayer, discipline yourself to listen to it anew. Avoid “heap[ing] up empty phrases” in your mind (Matt 6:7 RSV). If you do not feel like praying or know what to pray, permit the words to speak for you. Allow yourself to own the prayer. Let the words or phrases express the yearnings of your own heart, but do not concern yourself if they seem irrelevant to your immediate needs. Hear the whole truth that you are speaking to God.

3. Mouth the prayer to yourself or whisper it softly. Listen for the words that reach beyond your own requests to the life of the community of which you are a part. Consider others on whose behalf you speak these words of praise, confession, thanksgiving, or petition.

4. Pray the prayer out loud. Keep a deliberate pace. Resist the temptation to race or to over-focus on accurate intonation and correct emphasis. Embrace your stutters and mispronunciations as part of the music you bring before the Lord. Join your voice with those throughout the ages and around the world who have prayed this prayer.

5. Pause in silence as the ring of the prayer settles. Listen to the echoes in the room or in your mind.

6. Repeat the prayer again. This time focus on the Lord before whom you offer these words. Some people avoid such prayers because they suspect that lack of spontaneity means they are faking it before God, treating him as less than the Almighty. If you feel this way, consider your participation in the ritual of other ceremonies (baptism, communion, and weddings, for example). When you choose to adopt the forms of a ceremony as your own, you intentionally join your voice with those of the saints around you and who have gone before you. You consent to a formality that has come to signal the awesome presence of the Most High. So, too, can liturgical prayer signal the grandeur of the King to whose throne you draw near together.

7. At the “Amen,” pause again to listen.

8. Write down the aspect(s) of the prayer or the praying that spoke for you or your community today or share your insights with a spiritual friend or small group.

9. Notice the words of the prayer returning to you throughout the day or later on when a situation arises to which they pertain.

Cranmer’s Tried and True Language

Sample the Prayer

Practice Together

Consider

Study Further

Liturgical Prayer     (Help to open PDFs.)

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14The Book of Common Prayer and the Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church Together with The Psalter or Psalms of David: According to the Use of the Episcopal Church (1789; repr. New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, n.d.), 121–22.

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