Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Liturgical Prayer I

I believe Christian prayer is fundamentally liturgical prayer. By that I mean it is prayer that originates outside myself and in its content sets forth God's saving acts which find their fulfillment in Christ.

Modern evangelicals think "real" prayer is self-composed, spontaneous and heartfelt. This is a curious thing because of evangelicals high view of scripture. Umm, have they noticed the longest book in the Bible is a prayer book -- the Psalter?

Jesus prayed liturgically. Jesus prayed the Psalms. Jesus even composed a liturgical prayer -- we call it the Lord's Prayer.

Liturgical prayer forces me to pray in line with the redemptive historical narrative of scripture. Liturgical prayer forces me to pray in line with God's will disclosed in scripture and the living tradition of the Church. Liturgical prayer comes from the outside and forms me into a new kind of person.


Dave said...

"And all God's people said..."

But seriously, I very much agree. As someone who used to attend fundamentalist Baptist churches, the pressure to pray spontaneously in front of other people weighed heavily upon me. I've learned since then that this is not uncommon. I gained new insight about this some time back when reading the Didache, which seems to view extemporaneous prayer as a spiritual gift related to prophecy, which not even all presbyters necessarily have.

Thanks for the good word. I look forward to part II.

MattJP said...

"Liturgical prayer comes from the outside and forms me into a new kind of person."

I loved this line. You said something similar to this when I first started at St. Pat's. I've noticed, especially after doing the daily office, parts of liturgical prayer sneaking into my "spontaneous" prayer.

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

There is balance though, yes? David's Psalms were "self-composed, spontaneous and heartfelt."

author of Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord's Prayer

Peter said...


You raise a good point, BUT, I am not sure that is the case. The fact tthat the psalms follow regularized form as hebrew poetry (e.g., parallelism) leads me to believe they were carefully composed. Heartfelt yes -- spontaneous? Not sure.