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two prayers of the people

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Well, we made it to our new home in Virginia. We went from living in a city of 1 million, bordered by other cities of millions to a small town of only 225. My wife and I together increased the population by nearly a percentage point! There are many cultural differences, once of which I want to focus on in this post.

There is one part of the Sunday liturgy called “Prayers of the People.” Protestants may refer to it as “Prayer Concerns” or the “Pastoral Prayer.” At the Catholic Church a reader announces what we are praying for and the congregation responds with “Lord, hear our prayer,” or some other response. For example we pray for the end of the drought – Lord hear our prayer.

Nearly every Sunday where-ever we are worshiping, there is always a prayer concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back in Pasadena, CA the prayer went something like this:

“We pray for the men and women who are deployed overseas and our also for our enemies. We pray for a just and lasting peace to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And at the small town Catholic church (yes, they exist!): “We ask that you protect our soldiers who are fighting for our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Did I mention this church posted an American flag in front of the sanctuary?


(Thanks to Craig Watts and Disciples World for the image idea. Read his related article here.)

Quite a difference. When I heard the new, small town prayer I was a bit taken back. What a self-serving, closed minded way to pray for soldiers. Of course it is a valid war if we are fighting for our freedom after all, and we should certainly beat the crap out of the enemy because they are against our freedom. There is no vision for peace with this mindset, just fight till the battle is won.

The first prayer shows awareness of Jesus’ command to pray for our enemies. I like it especially for the phrase “a lasting and just peace.” It is a prayer primarily for peace, but it exhibits a recognition that peace can be unjust. For example if an enemy is wiped off the face of the earth or harshly treated following the conflict; that is not a just peace.

So I encourage you to be discerning when writing Prayers of the People or saying the Pastoral Prayer. What are you really asking for?

Just Say It!

Monday, May 18th, 2009

prayerboardI visited a church where they prayed like this:

“Oh God we would like to thank for all you have done. We would pray Lord God that you would hear us. And we want to pray now for all those who are sick in our parish. As we pray to God, think of all the good graces he has given us. And now, God, we will pray the Lord’s prayer.”

It was early in the liturgy and they called it the pastoral prayer. This followed a time of sharing joys and concerns of the community. A minister gave the prayer and they concluded with the Lord’s Prayer.

Passive voice.

What gives with the passive voice? “We would pray,” “We would like to pray,” “We want to pray.” All of these statements are one step removed from reality. Those statements might work outside of prayer. However, when you are already in the prayer, just say so! “Gracious and loving God we thank you for your works, hear us now! Be with those who are sick…”

If prayer is a conversation with God, then actually talk to him. Don’t talk about talking to him.


Who hears our prayers? It is the Triune God. Those who pray should not address the congregation in their prayers, unless of course you are asking the congregation for intercessory prayer. If this is the case, do it outside of the pastoral prayer. You are just going to confuse God and the people.