When I was in high school I attended a "non-liturgical" and fiercely evangelical Baptist Church. I put "non-liturgical" in quotes because, though that is how we would have thought of ourselves over against Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, we certainly had a very regular pattern - so much so that certain words and prayers were actually exactly the same from week to week. Even though it was not written down in a book or bulletin in front of us, it was a ritual liturgy.
Each week the service began with words from Psalm 122, "I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the house of the Lord..." The number of hymns and general order of the service was exactly the same each week.
Each and every week the minister said the same prayer invoking the Holy Spirit, and asking for "clarity of thought and mind" before he began to preach his (often fiery) sermon.
Now that I do a lot of preaching, I have found myself coming back to certain prayers again and again as I prepare to study Scripture and as I prepare to write sermons. Even to the point that I've written a few of them in the front of the journals that I use for making notes and sermon outlines. So, here are the prayers I use most frequently. You will note they either come directly from Scripture, or are taken from the rich and ancient liturgical tradition that is shared in common by Anglicans and Methodists. What are yours?
Prayers before studying the Bible
O Lord, Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Amen.
Blessed Lord, you have caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
-United Methodist Hymnal, 602;
taken from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 236
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart...Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you. Amen.
-Psalm 119:33-34, 38
Prayers before writing the sermon:
O Lord, Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Amen.
-Psalm 90:16 & 17 (NRSV & ESV)
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings, with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-United Methodist Hymnal, 705;
taken from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 832
And, a reminder...
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
(Romans 10:17, KJV)
Labels: Spirituality and Liturgy, Theology and Ministry