Today I read an interesting article by Isaac Gaff at the Worship Studies blog. The brief, but thought provoking, article is entitled, Why I Write Down Public Prayers. I recommend reading it and considering Isaac’s point of view. I also recommend reading the comments to the post, which include some equally thought provoking interactions about both the pluses and the possible pitfalls of praying written prayers. Here is the main body of Isaac’s post:
First, let me say this loudly and clearly: I like spontaneous prayer. All prayer that originates from us is, in a sense, spontaneous. That being said, there are several reasons why I like to think about prayers that I am going to pray in public worship services early and write them down.
I get a chance to reflect on the words I use and see whether or not they are true and make sense. Sometimes my spontaneity breeds unclear or untrue statements. Leading people in prayer is too important a job to be ambiguous or incorrect. After all, we’re not a group of individuals all praying different things in public prayer, we should be united around one prayer when we’re together.I get a chance to see if this prayer is really voiced from the church’s
perspective or if it’s simply my own personal agenda. My own personal prayer needs are not unimportant; but when I’m gathered with the church, I want to make sure I have the church’s needs and responsibilities in the front of my mind. In the early church, the term “amen” really meant “so be it” or “we agree.” The prayers that have survived from the early church were written so that the entire church could say “yes, we agree with this and pray it as well” at the end of the
I get a chance to make sure I’m purposeful in the prayer. Prayer often plays different roles in a service and I want to make sure this prayer does what it was intended to do. If I’m supposed to pray and thank God at communion, I want to make sure I’m really doing that.
I get a chance to soak in this prayer and make it more real than most things I could think up on the spot. Thinking about my prayers and writing them down before the service gives me a chance to let my heart, mind, will and imagination all work together to pray instead of quickly drawing from only one or two of them in spontaneous public praying.
Perhaps readers of this blog will want to go and weigh in here.