Thoughts on the Prayers of the Faithful

WordPress lets me know when other blogs share links to A Collection of Prayers, and I’m always interested in how ACOP’s material is being used or quoted. Monsignor Charles Pope recently wrote an article, “Improving the Prayer of the Faithful,” and he referenced ACOP’s “The Litany of Gelasius” as a good ancient model.

Pope quotes another article, lamenting the pitfalls of prayers written to be modern, relevant and inclusive:

It is surely no exaggeration to say that throughout the world the quality of these intercessions has tended to be deplorable, ranging from trite and saccharine sentiments to political propaganda, from progressivist daydreams to downright heretical propositions to which no one could assent without offending God. Even when the content is doctrinally unobjectionable, all too often the literary style is dull, flaccid, rambling, or vague. … [There is] problematic content, poor writing, and [a] monotonous manner of delivery.

This reminds me of a somewhat humorous review on Amazon on a book of Prayers of the Faithful, in which there were petitions …

“For the homely, that their hearts may be beautiful enough to show through…” (Assumption)
“For activists who spend lonely days fighting strip mining companies, water and air polluters, and others who ravage this world…”
“For a frost that will tarnish the value of gold and put sparkle into the dullness of life…”
“For a society where we don’t have to make a million dollars, run the 100 in 10 seconds, invent a laser or die, in order to be believed…”
“That we will reverence the mystery of other people’s lives and of our own life when we use words like negro, middle-class, culturally-deprived, and PhD.”
“For soldiers who don’t get mail, children who flunk, showgirls who grow old, for all who suffer, that they will know there is no suffering unnoticed by God…”
“That those who collect bottle for recycling, and plant trees, and cover up strip mines, will show us how to care for the creation we have been given…”

My denomination’s liturgy and prayer tradition has/had the pitfalls of going in the opposite direction. Some have called the Prayer of the Church “the sermon with eyes closed” because the preacher would often present the same thoughts from the sermon in the prayer. Several Prayer of the Church / General Prayer resources were really more homiletic and devotional rather than intercessory.

Pope quotes “General Instruction in the Roman Missal” on the Prayers of the Faithful:

In the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world. As a rule, the series of intentions is to be

  1. For the needs of the Church;
  2. For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
  3. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
  4. For the local community.

My series, Praying with the Readings was written after researching the Prayers of the Church / Prayers of the Faithful, what the intended function of those prayers should be, and striving to write petitions that would be for all, for those in need, for those in the community, and for the good of Christ’s church in all the world, along with scripture references to the day’s lectionary readings, and some connection with the church of the past.

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Lutheran pastor and musician serving St. Stephen's in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

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