Jay and Lingamish made recommendations for prayer books on my post, “What is the Opposite of Speaking in Tongues?”. Jay’s suggestion was the Valley of Vision and Lingamish’s was the Book of Common Prayer. I searched online, read and prayed through some of the prayers in both books. You can listen online to a short selection from the Valley of Vision, narrated by Max McLean. Thank you for these recommendations.
What struck me the most was the richness and beauty of being able to join with people from other places and times in prayer. It’s hard to put into words how that affects me so deeply (but, of course, I’m going to try!) It certainly connects me with the Body of Christ in a much larger way. I care a lot about relationships and connections, and so being connected with people I’m spiritually related to who lived long ago and far away is amazing.
While I can read these prayers and realize that there is nothing new under the sun, at the same time, hearing prayers that come out of different situations and contexts broadens how I can pray. Obviously, I also appreciate that WORDS have already been put to the prayers, since that is something I struggle with.
From what I can tell , the Book of Common Prayer is wonderfully efficient with words (although the “system” was a bit complicated for me) and the Puritan Prayers I found online are wonderfully not.
One thing about reading prayers that don’t, by default, use the culturally normal words and intonation patterns I’m used to (intonation is obviously not an issue in written prayers anyway), is that I think about the words being prayed a lot more and make deliberate choices to agree in prayer, or not, with what is being said.
I’m not just knocking the cultural way we pray as inferior and the cultural way the Puritans, for example, prayed as superior. Even though I have a hard time with “normal American prayers”, I think it is unwise to put down “the way we do things” in a blanket way, while elevating “the way they used to do it.”
Internet Monk has an interesting post about rethinking evangelical-prayer-list-praying (which I tend to avoid like the plague). I appreciate his reminders about the important beliefs that underlie that kind of praying. While it is obvious to me that such praying does not have the corner on the market, it is highly unlikely that the Anglican or Puritan ways of praying did either.
Hearing prayers that sound refreshingly “different”, means that I listen and pray along a lot less mindlessly. All of this has reminded me of a prayer prayed by a Kenyan pastor several years ago in a small family gathering. In my own church I get aggravated when I feel like people are telling God doctrine that He already knows. It sounds like undercover preaching to me. And in Africa, I also have been frustrated with this and other characteristics of African prayer (admitting this online is humbling as I see how critical I am).
In His graciousness.
Does not allow me to stay arrogant and critical.
I am so thankful that He has continued to meet me, speak to me and challenge me through prayers of others, even when I have not, in general, liked the style or types of prayers.
Back to the prayer of the Kenyan pastor. The theology in his prayer has come back to me many, many times since then. He simply said, “Thank you, Lord, that you have been faithful to us, every day up to this very day.” It struck me as odd, like he was stopping with today, as if tomorrow there was the possibility that God might NOT be faithful. (I know, I know, I think about and analyze things too much.)
Because it struck me as odd, I continued to think about that prayer throughout the day and many days since then. And I realized that while I would casually affirm the reality of God’s big-picture faithfulness in my prayers, what this pastor was doing was affirming the daily experience of God’s faithfulness in every moment of his life right up until the present.
Since then, I have walked through some very difficult experiences. Times when I couldn’t see how or if God would intervene for protection or deliverance. But, no matter how dark the future looked, I remembered, “Yes, God, you HAVE been faithful to me EVERY moment up until this one. So I can and will continue to trust you for the next moment, even though it looks hopeless and dark. Even though I don’t even know how to ask you to intervene. I choose to trust you.”
So, today, I am not celebrating that other people pray or prayed better than me (although that is certainly true). I am celebrating that my life is richer because I can join in prayer with people who do pray very differently than I do. Anglicans. Puritans. Africans. Baptists. Charismatics. Catholics. Believers in the past. Believers around the world. Believers in the churches next to my own. Created in the image of God. Reflecting different parts of that image. Talking together in very different ways to Almighty God. That’s amazing!!!!!! Not only that we can approach and talk to God. But that we are each able to do it in our own, unique, image-of-God-reflecting way.