Today we’ll learn about prayer Using Other People’s Words and no words at all.
Praying with other people’s words is the most familiar type in Anglican churches, where this course was taught.
Anglicans have two books of written prayers. Some use these books, known as the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) or an alternative book like the Book of Alternative Services (BAS) for their daily prayer, and of course Anglican and other liturgical churches do at this church on Sundays.
There are other sources of set prayers in other great resources as well.
But is using others’ words a cop out? Should we be using our own words for everything?
No – think of it this way. Many couples have a song they call “our song”. Is it a cop out that they didn’t write it? No – it expresses something deeper than either could have written.
In the same way, praying prayers that others have written might express something more beautifully, more deeply than your own words. What matters is that you’re truly expressing them, not just reading them off a page without contemplation.
It can also help you pray for things you’d never have thought of yourself. Every Sunday at church services you will find people praying for those who are sick, countries in distress, and other needs they’ve never heard of, sometimes for people they’ve never heard of. But those prayers are important – they show our trust in a God who cares about needs far beyond our own limited circles.
What’s important is that the words are meaningful, and you focus on the words you are saying. Jesus warned against people who would pray for show, stringing what he called “empty words together” to sound impressive and religious.
That’s certainly what happened to Ben Stiller in “Meet the Parents”…in a scene where he recited the words of a familiar song to look like he knew how to pray.
Praying with no words is less common, but very important.
We can also pray using no words at all. Sometimes people tell me they are looking for an answer from God, and haven’t heard one. I ask them how they pray, and they reveal to me that they have never stopped talking in their prayers to listen. We sometimes need to learn to simply be quiet and enjoy God’s presence with us. Sometimes people will even hear God’s voice, speaking through Scripture, through images, or even audibly, in ways consistent with Scripture (God won’t tell you something in prayer that completely changes his mind – God is consistent!).
Some disciplines to help you do this, and be open to him. You might want to contemplate a passage from the Bible – keep reading it over and over again, and ask God to speak to you through his written words. Or you might light a candle, or look at a cross. Not to worship those objects – but to remind you what you are doing, when your mind starts to wander.
Question: “Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for your own prayers. Write out a personal prayer after each line below:
- Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
- your kingdom come,
- your will be done,
- on earth as in heaven.
- Give us today our daily bread.
- Forgive us our sins
- as we forgive those who sin against us.
- Save us from the time of trial
- and deliver us from evil.
- For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.”