16 February 2009

The Prayer of the Church

For some time I've often used an adaptation of the Roman Canon for the Prayer of the Church. I've always thought it makes a worthy intercession; just a terrible Eucharistia! LSB permits the pastor to frame the Prayer of the Church, and having just reworked this adaptation, I offer this redaction for those who might care to use it. Two points at which it would likely make our laity uncomfortable are the intercessions for the departed and the reference to the saints in heaven praying for us.  Yet both of these are actually in accord with the Lutheran lex credendi, our Book of Concord. The form of intercession for the departed is adapted from Starck's Prayer Book.


We come to You, Holy Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Through Him we ask You to accept and bless the prayers and gifts we offer - for we bring You in thanksgiving only what You have first given to us in love. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, Your holy church. Watch over her and guide her. Grant her peace and unity throughout the world. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, Gerald, our Synodical President, Herbert, our District President, and all pastors and servants of the Church. Grant them to hold and teach the faith that comes to us from the apostles. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, our President, our public servants, and all in our armed forces. Guide, bless, protect and uphold them in honor. Bring all nations into the ways of peace and justice. In Your kindness and love, grant us seasonable weather and an abundance of the fruits of the earth. Lord, in your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, all who suffer for Your name, all who are in prison, the hungry and ill-clad, the poor and the lonely, those who travel, and all who cry out to You in their time of need (especially…). Take them under Your tender care and grant them a happy issue out of their afflictions. Lord, in your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, all who are gathered here before You, our living and true God. We pray for our well-being and redemption. Order our days in Your peace, deliver us from the danger of eternal death, and number us among Your chosen flock. Though we are sinners, we trust in Your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us Your forgiveness. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Remember, Lord, (N. and N. and) all our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in Christ our Savior. Refresh their souls with heavenly consolation and joy and fulfill for them all the gracious promises which in Your Word You have given to those who believe in You. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Holy Father, in communion with the whole Church we honor Your saints, in whom You have given us a mirror of Your mercy and grace. We praise You especially for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph her husband, St. John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, and all Your martyrs. Give us grace to walk before you with faith like theirs and, in accordance with their prayers, grant us a share in their heavenly fellowship. Lord, in Your mercy, R.

Lord God, as we prepare to receive the holy Sacrament, we pray You, bless and sanctify, with the power of Your Holy Spirit, this bread and wine, which You have given us, that through our Lord’s Words they may be unto us His body and blood, the food and drink of eternal life.

Grant that we may receive worthily this sacramental mystery, the New Testament of our Divine Redeemer, for He is the Lamb of God, who gave Himself once and for all, as a holy, immaculate and perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin and for the life and salvation of the whole world.

Through Him, we beseech You, Father,  to look with favor upon us and receive our thanksgiving for so great a Gift, as You once accepted the offerings of Your servants Abel and Noah, the sacrifice of Abraham, and the bread and wine offered by Your priest Melchizedek. In union with them, we pray that Your holy angel would carry our prayer to Your altar in heaven and unite us in the unending liturgy of Your servants of every time and place; through Christ, our Lord, from whom all good things come.

Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.


wmc said...

This is good. I like the flow and tone of these petitions very much. I'm going to give this a field test in the liturgy at Holy Trinity.

There is one petition that catches my eye:

Lord God, as we prepare to receive the holy Sacrament, we pray You, bless and sanctify, with the power of Your Holy Spirit, this bread and wine, which You have given us, that through our Lord’s Words they may be unto us His body and blood, the food and drink of eternal life.

What, precisely, are we asking here and why?

Rev. Robert Franck said...

At first, I thought to second wmc's comment. However, at this point in the liturgy, I guess this would be just praying for what we know our Lord is going to give us.

As to the prayer for those departed before us, I don't really have a doctrinal objection, but I think having this petition in the prayers every week is dwelling too much on what we should be confident our Lord has already provided to them.

The petition regarding the saints in heaven praying for us seems likewise a bit much for weekly prayers. How about including instead of the specific saints listed in this prayer the saints from the Daily Lectionary which have been or will be observed over the past or future week?

WM Cwirla said...

Part of my question has to do with wording. "...that they may be unto us His body and blood..." sounds less objective than "is" gives us to say. Secondly, how is the "blessing and sanctification" of the bread and wine different from their consecration by the Verba Domini (always in the brooding presence, to be sure).

I like the suggestion of the including the specific saints that come up each week in the commemorations, or will come up in the coming week, Sunday being the first day of a new creative week.

All in all, this is a fine template which I plan to employ as we make the change of liturgical season into Lent in a week. Thanks, William!

William Weedon said...


In the background of the petition in my mind are Luther's insightful words:

As one cannot deny the fact that she [the Blessed Virgin] becomes pregnant through the Word, and no one knows how it comes about, so it is in the sacrament also. For as soon as Christ says: This is my Body, his body is present through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. - Blessed Martin Luther, AE 36:341 [1526]

The unity of Word and Spirit, "the words that I speak to you they ARE Spirit and they are life."

I agree that "be to us" would probably be bettered by simply: "become HIs body and blood, the food and drink of eternal life."


I wonder if dwelling on it each week could actually strengthen our remembrance and joy in what God promises to do for the departed - and since the Resurrection lies out there as an unfulfilled promise for them as of yet, it might be helpful. But I do see your point about not wanting to engender doubt about the condition of the faithful departed.

A much neglected area, though, that we might want to recognize is that the perfection of the saints in glory should not be taken as to preclude increased bliss. I think of the way Luther put it in the Large Catechism under the Second Petition: "We pray that His kingdom may come to those who are not in it, and by daily growth that it may come to us who have received it, *both now and hereafter in eternal life.*" par. 53

Jacobs seems to be heading the same way when he wrote (Elements of Religion, pp. 48, 49):

"Holy and happy as man was when he was created, there were within him possibilities for the infinite development of all that the divine image included. The reflection of the Infinite in the finite implied that the finite should ever approach more nearly to the perfection of the Infinite. The image of God in Adam was only the feeblest germ of what was to proceed from it. The acorn may be perfect, in its sphere, as the oak; but this does not imply that the one is not intended to grow into the other. The perfection of humanity is dependent upon the unfolding of its capacities, as the perfection of the seed requires that it should germinate and yield fruit."

Thus to pray for those who have died in the Lord to grow in their bliss seems to me not out of bounds at all. At the risk of being called a Platonist, I'd say that Lewis got it right: "Higher up and in!"

William Weedon said...

P.S. William, let me know how it goes in actual use in your parish! Thanks.

William Weedon said...

P.S.S. I'd also be interested in seeing how you adapt the prayer; any ways it can be improved upon (and I'm sure there are many).

Fr. Carlos said...

Gentlemen, does the prayer of humble access have any usage in the Lutheran tradition?

"WE do not presume to come to this your table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord who delights in showing mercy.
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies and souls may be cleansed and washed
by his most precious body and blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen."

William Weedon said...

Fr. Carlos, it's one of the most beautiful prayers in the Anglican tradition. I don't think it ever was included in Lutheran liturgy; at least I'm not aware of such.

William Weedon said...

Oh, a better quote from Jacobs on the topic:

"The eternal world is not one of simple attainment, without the prospect of progress. When the Children of God are said to 'rest from their labors,' it is the toil and trouble of this life that are referred to, and not the cessation of works of love or of constant progress in ever new enjoyments of Life Everlasting. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, 2 Cor. 5:8, and to be with Christ in Paradise, Luke 23:43, and in this presence, to be holy and unspeakably happy. But the state into which man is then ushered is one of expectancy of still greater blessings.... With man's constantly expanding capacity to know and love and admire, there will be incessant revelations of what Christ, and of what God in Christ is; and with every new revelation, there will be the development within man of new capacities for knowing and loving and admiring. Thus, while the negative side of holiness, freedom from sin, is complete with his entrance into another world, its positive side, or the ever-increasing growth of capacities for new bestowals of grace, ever advances." (Elements, p. 199, 200)

big benny said...

Where are the words of the institution narrative???