Bishop Rickel picked the Book of Common Prayer for our focus this Lent. He always picks a book for our consideration during Lent, and this year it is the book that shares with the Bible a place at the center of our faith and practice.
In that spirit, today I write to encourage the people of St. Paul’s toward more active and intentional participation in the Prayers of the People.
What do I mean? I mean that I’m encouraging all to feel free to speak up as appropriate during the Prayers of the People during the Sunday and weekday celebrations of the Holy Eucharist. I’ll explain further.
As you know, every celebration of the Eucharist has some form of the Prayers of the People. The idea here is that the people of the church join with Jesus our leader to offer up prayers for ourselves and the world. We do this because we share Jesus’ concern for the world. We do this because in baptism we willingly take on the sharing of his priesthood in the world; his way of bringing the world’s concerns to God’s attention and his bringing to the world God’s intention to bless the world. We pray as he taught us: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Book of Common Prayer on page 383 gives instructions for the orderly conduct of these Prayers. The scope of concerns to be covered in the Prayers is outlined there. There are additional rubrics (that language in italicized text) to give some flexible guidelines for this prayer. The six forms for Prayers that follow are offered as basic forms for use at any time, but the church is not limited to use of these forms. They “may” be used.
My point is this: I encourage members of St. Paul’s to speak up during the Prayers of the People at the times appointed within the form of prayer being used.
Here are some examples of what I’m writing about. In Form I on page 384 there is a provision - a “fill in the blank” - for the immediate concerns of the community to be voiced. The leader of the intercessions is free to invite individual members of the congregation to say “For _______, let us pray to the Lord,” to which the congregation can respond, “Lord, have mercy.”
In Form II on page 386 the invitation is very specific. The rubric and the examples read as follows:
Members of the congregation may ask the prayers or the thanksgivings of those present
I ask your prayers for ___________________.
I ask your thanksgiving for _______________.
After Form III and in the midst of Form VI there is a rubric which direct as follows:
The People may add their own petitions.
I encourage readers to check out your Book of Common Prayer and find the places in these forms where it is appropriate for someone other than the person leading the intercessions to speak up.
I encourage those appointed to lead the intercessions to see where these places are in the forms from the Book of Common Prayer or the other form we are using, and to make allowance for the members of the congregation to speak up. Give some space.
Do you have someone for whom you want us to intercede? You are welcome and encouraged to speak their name out loud. A concern for the community or the world to voice? Give it voice in public. A thanksgiving you’d like us to share? Name it out loud. You never know how the Spirit might use your contribution to enrich the community’s worship that day.
And I encourage us all to bring not only our requests, but our thanksgivings to this time of prayer. God hears many requests of us, and God welcomes those requests. We do have much for which to be thankful, and it does us good to give voice to our thanksgivings.
Yes, I know there are good reasons to pray silently for some of the concerns you bring to worship with you. There are also good reasons for bringing concerns to voice. Either way, you make the Prayers of the People more fully your own prayers, our own prayers as a congregation.
Thanks for your attention.