I have been experimenting this year on how I frame the prayers for congregational worship. I’ve been calling the early prayers in the service of worship ‘Prayers on the way’ as a way of finding a language for what is going on for those who are strangers to some of the old language, and those of us who are bored by some of that stuff! And I’ve been calling the prayers in the later parts of the service ‘Prayers for the road’. The feedback from people has been positive, though quite a few others seem not to have noticed!
I wonder sometimes about what we lose when we step back from preparing prayers by either making them up in the moment, or borrowing prayers from other sources. Both practices, of course, have their place. The prayers that rise up in the moment can be profound, but they risk carelessness in language and theology, and sameness in content. The prayers others have crafted can draw on a wonderful collection of prayers from those who have prayed before us and those who pray around us, but if not carefully curated and adapted, they risk being in a language and style that is far from the world of the people before us. Both styles can also encourage a kind of laziness, where those who prepare worship simply bounce off for whatever is in their head or reach uncritically for whatever resource they can find to rescue them. Continue reading