The third section of Eugene Peterson's Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places concerns the spiritual theology of biblical community. (I highly recommend this book to every Christian, no matter where you are in your walk with Christ.) On pages 272-76, Peterson writes about St. Luke's Pentad of Prayers, and how Luke, "whose task is to maintain and develop the organic continuities between Jesus and the his company of followers, frequently brings us to prayer." Peterson writes,

"If the Holy Spirit - God's way of being with us, working through us, and speaking to us - is the way in which continuity is maintained between the life of Jesus and the life of Jesus' community, prayer is the primary way in which the community actively receives and participates in that presence and working and speaking...Five prayers [at the beginning of Luke's gospel] articulate a language of listening and believing, a language of receptive and responsive participation as God speaks the life of Jesus and the Jesus community into existence."

What I want to point out in addition to the community forming and sustaining power of prayer, which Peterson superbly explains (read it!), is the order and function of prayer in a worship gathering, how we, the community of Christ, can most effectively participate in the activity of the Spirit when we gather. Further, I will break down prayer into the common dichotomy of "praise" and "petition" (even though I believe the mystery of prayer warrants much deeper reflection than this). Here is Luke's Pentad of Prayers:

  • The Fiat mihi (Luke 1:38)
  • The Magnificat (1:46-55)
  • The Benedictus (1:68-79)
  • The Gloria in excelsis (2:14)
  • The Nunc dimittis (2:29-32)

The first and the last prayers are related in that they are both petitions. The middle three are praises, each of which have been put to music and are more commonly sung corporately than spoken.

Before we dive into the five prayers, I should point out that Peterson in the quote above speaks of prayer as "a language of receptive and responsive participation." Take a look at a previous post entitled "Receive and Respond: The Purpose of Musical Worship." Also, here is a quote from another post called "Getting Old," in which I identify a couple reasons why our church has adopted the historical four-part worship structure for Sunday morning Celebrations: "We have moved the bulk of our music to the Table portion of the service. This way we have already received the Word and Communion and have a whole lot more to respond to in musical worship."

And so that this post ends now, I will make this a series of posts going through each of Luke's five prayers. Stay tuned.

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