(One of the goals of Brothers of John the Steadfast is to train the Brothers in good practice and theology. This article is one in a series that teaches about the liturgy.
These articles were initially intended to be put into bulletins or read during the service to educate the laity on the different parts of the service. They were therefore purposefully made short.
Notes on the Liturgy #14 — The Prayers
The Apostle Paul wrote, “1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
This passage gives the spirit of what the church has intended for the General Prayer also called The Prayer of the Church. This prayer is designed to, “rise above small, local, and selfish considerations” (Luther Reed). In other words, this is a time of prayer on behalf of the Church at large. To that end, many LCMS congregations today base their prayers on ones prepared by the Commission on Worship. In this sense, the petitions truly are universal and prayed by the Church at Large.
It goes beyond praying only for the sick in the congregation. It is a broad ranging prayer that includes the great commission goal that the Word may be preached to the strengthening of God’s people and salvation of the lost (see “Lutheran Worship” page 144; See “The Lutheran Hymnal” page 13, 23 ) Without careful consideration it is easy to let this prayer slip into becoming only a grocery list of parochial needs rather than breathing the spirit of Saint Paul’s words above.
As far as its positioning in the worship service, the Prayer is closely tied with the offering and singing of the offertory. We offer up gifts, the praise of the offertory, and our prayers (L. Reed). More could be said in regard to its placement, but let me speak to another practical consideration. How do we stop our minds from wandering in prayer? It can be hard enough not to wander in our own prayer let alone following someone else’s prayer! This is part of the reason the prayers are often broken up with words like, “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.”
When I have followed another person who is leading a prayer, I have found it helpful to focus on a thought or phrase of the person’s prayer and bring in my own quick petition on the subject. Perhaps I will repeat a phrase the other person is praying and give a quick “amen” or “Lord have mercy.” See what works for you, but don’t let Satan and your flesh steal community prayer from you. Don’t surrender so that you simply bow your head and let your mind drift. Join in and breath the spirit of the Apostle Paul’s words!
Previous Notes on the Liturgy —
Introit, Psalm or Hymn
Kyrie and Gloria
Alleluia Verse and other responses
The Hymn and Hymns
You may find all these by looking at our Regular Column on the Explanation of the Divine Service category or by using the shortcut https://steadfastlutherans.org/liturgy.
These notes were originally written in 2001 by Pastor David Oberdieck and have been edited. Thanks to Pastor Mathey for improvements to this segment.