Every Sunday, in addition to preaching, I lead my congregation in prayer. The prayers I offer are much different from the ones I pray in private. Communal prayer is, in many ways, different than personal, private prayer. (When I was young, I sometimes tried to model my personal prayers after the prayers I heard in church. It didn't work.)
When I write these prayers, I sometimes incorporate lines or themes from traditional prayers of the church. Even though we are not a very "liturgical" congregation, I frequently incorporate lines like "Holy Lord, God of power and might, all of creation is full of your glory..." into my prayers.
Often, the prayers will lift up themes that are present in the sermon. Almost always, they refer to the specific joys and concerns of the congregation, and also lift up people in various parts of the world.
Here is the prayer from last Sunday. It does incorporate themes from the sermon (which you can read, if you wish, by following the link to the right).
What do you think about communal prayer? What does that part of the worship service mean to you? If you were called to lead your congregation in prayer, what would you pray for?
O God, we praise you. We know that there is a wideness in your mercy, wider than the sea. Your love is higher than the mountains. It is broader than even the measure of our mind. The depth of your riches and wisdom and knowledge are beyond comprehension.
How awesome you are, O God! How amazing is your love! In your goodness you have created a world of interrelated parts: one web of creation. Every lifeform is a strand on that web. Our connection to the world around us is stronger than we realize. Our very life depends on the plants and animals with which we share this planet. All are a part of the goodness and beauty of your creation.
Likewise, we are united with one another, and with all the people of the earth. You have created us all to share this world, to live in harmony with one another. You call upon us to welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed us. Jew, Gentile, Samaritan; male, female; slave, free: all are one with you.
We pray for our brothers and sisters. We pray for those we know, in our families, our church, our circle of friends; we pray for our community, consisting as it does of a great diversity of people from almost every culture on earth; we pray for our nation, and especially for those at the margins of society: the young and the old, the poor, and the oppressed; and we pray for our world. We pray for peace among the nations. We pray for our enemies; help us to love them, for they are not as different from us as we like to pretend.
We continue to pray for the people of Japan, and we also pray for the people of Mynamar. We remember the people of Haiti. We lift up to you the people of Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, as well as the many other places where violence and conflict are present.
Show us the way to peace. Show us the path to life in your kingdom. May we recommit ourselves, day after day, to the task of bringing wholeness to a fragmented world.