Corporate prayers, especially the Collects from the Book of Common Prayer, are becoming a regular part of our worship celebrations. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Jesus teaches it. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells his disciples to pray like this:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.]

The Collects, a collection of well-thought-through prayers written by great men of history, are for the most part crafted using the structure of the Lord's prayer. For example, here is the layout of the prayer for Ascension Day, which we prayed corporately today.

  • First, we address God--Almighty God.

  • Then, we tell of who God is or what He has done--whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things.

  • Next, we beseech God--Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages.

  • The prayer closes with a salute to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

2. The Godly men of history who wrote these prayers labored for hours and sometimes days over each one of them. Sometimes reading these great traditional prayers helps us put into words what we know and feel in our hearts but may have a hard time articulating ourselves.

3. There's just something about the body of Christ lifting one voice in prayer to God. We're already used to singing songs together, which is essentially the same thing, only with a melody. Lifting our voices together in prayer as the community of God attests to the communal character of God most beautifully represented in the unity of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The danger in using corporate prayers in worship, and not only in corporate prayers but in every act of worship, is that it may become rote and meaningless noise coming off of our lips. The truth is, it is up to us as individuals to engage our hearts and minds in the act. Sometimes even the simple act of joining in with others is enough to stir our hearts into a right attitude of prayer. What I encourage our congregation to do is pray the same prayer, which is always printed in the bulletin, throughout the week; to engage the mind and heart, to meditate and contemplate, to make more of it than just a Sunday morning one-time thing.

The Lord's Prayer itself has the danger of becoming mechanic and thoughtless, as I'm sure many of us have seen and experienced. I encourage all of us in our personal devotions to use these prayers as templates for deeper prayer. Read the first line. Stop. Dwell on it for a bit--Our Father in heaven...Wow God, you are our Father, intimately involved with each of us, yet you are in heaven, infinitely greater than anything we could ever comprehend...

Get it? It's up to us whether these prayers and other acts of worship become ritualistic or full of meaning.

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