Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pastoral Prayers

At my church, I write out my "pastoral prayer" -- a sort of general purpose prayer in the standard liturgy of this local church. Here's an example from Christ the King Sunday and my rationale for parts of it:

Most gracious God, on this day in which we celebrate the reign of your Son in Heaven and Earth, we praise your name that we have a king who is faithful, just, and compassionate to his subjects. We thank you that you have ruled with such grace; for we have not deserved a merciful king, but a harsh and punishing one.

In classical collect prayers, a good prayer begins with depicting the attributes of God.

For Lord, although we have been created in your own image,

The Imago Dei is such an important doctrine that I mention it every Sunday.

we confess that we have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy.

This is our prayer of confession, lifted directly from the Service for Word and Table II. Confession should always proceed petition, so that our relationship to God is restored through justification.

And so gracious Father, we silently confess to you our transgressions.

Although we have corporate confession, we need a time of silent, individual confession as a weekly moment to be confronted by a just and holy God with our sins. It may be the only time that week a parishioner faces his/her sins, which makes it all the more important to include in the pastoral prayer. I generally count to twenty-five in my head before moving on.

Lord we make this confession with a contrite heart, but also with hope, for we know that the king has returned.

Confession is both a time of sorrow, but also one of joy, because we do not retain our sins.

We know that your Son Jesus the Christ came to earth to conquer sin and death and free us from chains of unholiness that we willingly shackled to ourselves. We accept the unearned, unmerited pardon of our king,

I have heard it said that Asbury teaches students a distorted view of atonement -- blood atonement alone. That's one reason why I've been consciously working in the other views of atonement into my pastoral prayers. This passage of the prayer will always express (1) the destruction of that sin and (2) that this change is unmerited.

and ask that you continue to give this lovingkindness to….

God's grace is manifest in not only healing us from sin, but healing us from bodily infirmity (the vast majority of prayer requests). This is how I transition into the specific prayer requests. I generally save the praise reports to the end, after expressing that these petitions are not lift up in vain, but that we make them with confidence because we have seen God's mighty hand at work.

And then we close with the Lord's Prayer.

How do pastoral prayers work at your church?


Michael said...

I have to say that up to now, I've been pretty much winging it and offering up on behalf of the congregation the prayers that were voiced by those who offered prayer petitions. Now you've given me something to think about.

UCM said...

I prefer "prayers of the people" similar to Rite II in the Book of Common Prayer. This way the people have something to contribute also, rather than just listening and closing with the Lord's Prayer.

Sometimes pastoral prayers become mini-sermons or announcements. "O Lord, we pray for Suzie, who went into the hospital on Monday and is room 202"

God: "Oh really? I did not know that!"

John Meunier said...

My experience is usually that pastoral prayers try to cover too much ground. Sometimes you can almost hear the pastor/leader ticking off a list of things he or she is trying to make sure get mentioned.

I like it when there is more than one prayer time. I think asking the members of the congregatiion to move through praise, thanksgiving, confession, pardon, and petition in one extended prayer assumes too much spiritual agility on the part of most ofus.

Shopping Blog said...

You simply link to one site and discount links of london that site in turn links to another site. charms bracelets That third site then links to you and completes a perfect web charms links of london that is untraceable by anything Google can do.This can build your links of london sweetie watches Serps immensely and give you a major edge over all your competition. links of london ring uk You would be surprised just how fast Google can move links of london silver necklace you up in rankings.Now is the time to stop wasting your time on useless link building that does nothing links of london silver earrings and start using a system that is prove to work..