Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > Stealing Prayers, part 3

Stealing Prayers, part 3

Most Christians I know believe in prayer.  Most Christians I know pray.  Most Christians I know want to pray more faithfully and effectively.  David deSilva believes that liturgical prayers can become the ultimate “school for prayer.”

Here it is appropriate to let David deSilva summarize this point himself:

“Liturgy has been a primary means of spiritual formation and voice of spiritual direction in the life of the Christian community across the millennia.  They have been thoughtfully and prayerfully crafted to facilitate human encounter with God and the action of the Spirit upon human beings and human community.  These liturgies put words into the mouths of worshipers in order that the intentions and commitments that those words express will sink down deep into the consciousness and heart and come to full expression in changed lives.”

deSilva says a lot here, but there is one thing I want to bring out: praying liturgical prayers connects us to the worldwide, historic community of saints.  It is an excellent expression of Church community and unity.

Being “communal” as opposed to “individualistic” is all the rage today.  And, for the most part, I think this is a helpful correction to our very individualistic Christianity (though, I maintain, some aspects of Christianity, including conversion and even a lot of prayer, are and will always remain focused on the individual).  However, so often when we speak of “community” we are still speaking of the people immediately around us.  In this regard our talk of community still has an individual focus.  But, many people throughout history – Saint Augustine for example – speak of community in terms of the “catholic church.”  That is, the community is the Church in all places at all times.  Although it is not possible to experience spatial community with the Church of all places at all times, it is possible to experience community in terms of our prayers, and this is something that the liturgical tradition provides.

The benefit of this type of community cannot be overestimated.  In a postmodern era when everyone recognizes that it is difficult to overcome our own cultural baggage and presuppositions, connecting to the “catholic church” – the Church in all places at all times – provides a connection to the Great Tradition.  It is this Great Tradition that ensures we are standing on the solid foundation of the Christian faith and not the sandy foundation of our own personal opinions and preferences.  Tapping into liturgical prayer can provide a correction and a safeguard.

But, I digress.  deSilva concludes his article with final thoughts on liturgical prayer:

“The well-crafted liturgy also trains and exercises the worshipers in the full range of spiritual disciplines that nurture connection with God.  Nearly every element of the rite of Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer, for example, gives the worshiper the opportunity to practice adoration, self-examination and confession, prayer and intercession, thanksgiving, as well as being shaped by hearing and meditating upon Scripture.  Ill-used, liturgical worship can become a “rut.”  But the invested, thoughtful repetition of the practice of liturgical prayer cuts not ruts, but irrigation channels in our souls, through which the water of life can freely and consistently run.”

Well said.

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