Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > Stealing Prayers, part 1

Stealing Prayers, part 1

A visitor walking into a United Methodist congregation might open the bulletin and be confronted with several paragraphs in bold type throughout the order of service.  She would see references to pages in the United Methodist Hymnal, where she would discover more printed words, some in bold type for “the congregation” to say.  After the service ended and she went off to meet a friend for lunch, she might – if she is like many from non-liturgical traditions – comment that “the service was alright, but I really don’t like rote prayers.”

So begins an article by New Testament scholar David deSilva in Ashland Theological Seminary’s most recent edition of The Table.  (FYI: my wife’s had Dr. deSilva for a class on Hebrews during her time at ATS!).  In this article deSilva interacts with the common prejudice that “the prayer offered using words written by another is not as genuine as the prayer offered extemporaneously “from the heart.””

I have to admit that I am one of the people deSilva is talking about.  Because my entire Christian life has been spent in non-liturgical churches, I do not have the experience or appreciation for praying other people’s prayers (the Lord’s Prayer is an exception, but that doesn’t seem to count because it is in the Bible…and Jesus told me to do it!).  If I’m honest, it isn’t simply that I don’t have the experience with liturgical prayers, it is that for many years I have reacted against them for being rote and meaningless.

deSilva acknowledges the danger of rote prayers.  He writes, “praying “by rote” is, indeed, a danger.  Those who spend their lives in liturgical traditions do find themselves going on “auto-pilot” every now and again.”  So “stealing prayers” is certainly subject to abuse (unlike our non-liturgical traditions where nothing is every abused!).  However, deSilva makes the case that this danger should not prevent the use of liturgical prayers.  He says, “those who are unacquainted with the rich heritage of formational prayer given to us by liturgical churches may need to put the words into their hearts and minds.”

So I want to spend a couple days walking through deSilva’s brief article.  Again, I don’t have hardly any personal experience to draw from, except to say that I’m at a place where I see the benefit and the value for perhaps including some liturgical prayers into my personal prayer life and even the life of our corporate body.  So I’m looking forward to the challenge!

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