All Saints has taken up the practice of writing Prayers of the People to be used throughout various seasons of the church year. The intent is twofold, 1) to keep the liturgy fresh and relevant, and 2) to best express the desires and petitions of this community in corporate prayer.
As a model for these prayers we use the instructions found on page 383 of the Book of Common Prayer and the six forms published thereafter. There is also a copy of Intercessions for the Christian People on the shelf in the office that may provide inspiration. This document offers a supplementary guidelines that ensure that our community is able to pray together:
- Page 383 of the BCP lists six areas of prayer: The Universal Church, its members and mission, the nation and all in authority, the welfare of the world, the concerns of the local community, those who suffer or are in any trouble, and the departed. It is recommended that they be addressed in the order given. More specific intercessions generally should follow after more general ones.
- While not listed in the BCP, each prayer should take opportunity to offer thanks for God’s blessings. Following the example of Form VI it is suggested that these precede the prayers for the departed.
- All Saints maintains a prayer list with names of people who have asked for our community’s prayers, and a second with a list of those who have died. A place shall be designated in the Prayers of the People where these lists are to be inserted. In the case of the former, there may be too many names to list all of them each Sunday. The intercession should recognize this fact by using these or similar words, “we prayer for all those on our prayer list and this week especially: _____.”
- Our bishop has given us specific instructions that we pray for “Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.” This phrase (without alteration) must be included at some appropriate place within the prayers for the Universal Church, its members and mission.
- We pray for the clergy and staff of All Saints. This list currently is “Betsey, Michael, Virginia, Scott, Norma, and John”
- Our community values the beauty of our liturgy and desires that Prayers of the People fit within the beauty of our liturgy. To that end we suggest that intercessions be crafted with excellence in language as a focus. The prayer should be structured as a single prayer with a series of intercessions. Where parallel constructs are used they should be followed for each intercession. The form of divine address should remain consistent. Since these prayers are read aloud, some attention should be given to ensuring that they can be read smoothly and the meaning understood by someone listening to the spoken word.
- Prayers shall make use of gender-inclusive language. This will including avoiding “he” in reference to God or “men” used to mean all of humanity. This should be done in a way that feels natural, not stilted or forced. There are a myriad of ways to speak of God and humanity, both directly and through allusion. An effort should be made to use terms other than the obvious repetition of “God” at each reference to the Almighty.
- Each Prayer shall begin with an introductory statement offered by the deacon. This statement could do some or all of the following: Present the theme, focus or imagery of the prayer; introduce the congregational response (not necessary in our liturgy since it is printed in the bulletin); invoke God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit.
- The prayers always conclude with a collect selected by the presider.
- It is generally desirable to have a congregation respond to each intercession, either with a common response (I, IV, V) or with a response structured to each intercession (III, VI).
- Periods of silence which may or may not also offer a chance for free response are appropriate. When a free response is invited, it shall be introduced by the intercessor without breaking from the act of prayer, e.g. the phrase “For whom shall we pray” is not appropriate in a prayer addressed to the Most High unless we are asking God to show us who to pray for. The phrase “and for those we name either aloud or in our hearts.” is typical.
- When silence or free responses are included, such times must end with words spoken by either the intercessor or the concluding collect. A congregation response must not immediately follow a time of silence or free response. (This is subtle but very important)
- It will aid the office greatly if the following conventions are followed:
- Congregational responses in bold
- Instructions in italics (e.g silence, people may add their own petitions, etc.)
- It is understood that the deacon will open the prayers and that all other parts not in bold are for the intercessor. The office will include these instruction in the bulletin, but it is far easier to copy-and-paste if they are not included in the draft.
- Place a line consisting of five(5) consecutive underscores where the prayer list or the list of those who have died should be included (_____).
- To ensure that they can be set into the bulletin properly, the office asks that a final draft be e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by the Wednesday 10 days prior to the first Sunday they are to be used.
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