Scripture wants us not to make long, public prayers for display of our godliness. How do you all handle prayer gatherings?
By not having many, he said truthfully and to his own shame.
I grew up in a church with a weekly prayer meeting. How to pray was a semi-regular subject of sermons and evening studies. I think you would just have to teach the congregation and give some individual counsel if there are problems with the public prayers.
I trained my congregation to compose their prayers BEFORE attending a meeting devoted to prayer or before our regular worship service. In the latter occasion there were two places in the liturgy when people in the pew could audibly offer prayers of petition (at one place in the liturgy) and prayers of thanksgiving (at a later place in the liturgy).
Their prayers were to be composed in collect (pronounced CALL-ect) form. This is the form in which almost all the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer follow. The form has five elements, each of them brief and succinct:
Petition (or Thanksgiving)
Reason or Purpose
address BLESSED Lord,
ascription who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning,
petition Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
reason/purpose that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
invocation Who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
Following the collect form, this is a prayer I prayed often daily as a dear sister suffering from severe pre-eclampsia at 32 weeks of her pregnancy approached a c-section to save her life and the life of the child in her womb:
Address Most merciful Father
Ascription Who works in the wombs of mothers, and gently leads those who are with young,
Petition Grant that Elisabeth may be safely delivered of the child you have formed in her womb, and that he should emerge without harm to himself or his mother,
Purpose that your mercy to the helpless is manifest to all who love Elisabeth, her husband, and their entire family, and that this son may be preserved to spiritual maturity in the advancement of the Kingdom of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Invocation In whose Holy name I ask this in accordance with His exhortation that I do such. Amen.
When I timed this prayer spoken out loud, it spanned 40 seconds. Like any collect, it does not wander, it is highly focused, it is short.
In no prayer meeting or worship service did anyone in our parish ever fall into the common failings of public prayers - the prayer that is a story, the prayer that is a sermon, the prayer that is a complaint against a brother (or the pastor!), the prayer that is endless navel-gazing, and so forth.
The form itself imposes boundaries that keeps the prayer tight.
I freely acknowledge that to do this slaughters every sacred cow relating to prayer among evangelical Protestants. Raise one of them here and I’ll show you how to slaughter it.
I also acknowledge that for a pastor to undertake such training for even a few of his flock will generate controversy. However, I testify that in the 16 years I pastored the congregation I so trained, they took to it with enthusiasm and quickly learned how to compose their prayers (at least those offered in our prayer meetings or worship servies) with confidence and often “on the fly.”
Oh, I know what you mean - I have been in too many a prayer meeting where the people praying, how do I put this politely, really did like the sound of their own voice.
Your comments on the structure of collects is fascinating and, for this long-term Anglican, very helpful indeed.
This is fantastic, thank you and you’ve opened up a whole new world of prayer form to me.
My church holds three prayer meetings per week, via Zoom breakout sessions, and for some time, my pastor has been trying to get all of the members of the church to regularly participate in at least the Sunday evening prayer meeting. He thinks that one reason why some members do not participate is that certain other members of the church pray too long, or at least too long for the comfort of some members, so he has repeatedly asked people to keep prayers short in the Sunday evening meeting and leave the long prayers for the other meetings. My pastor’s goal is that the Sunday evening prayer meeting last no longer than 30 minutes with the entire church participating (the former has been accomplished, but not the latter yet).
Our Sunday pm service is largely a prayer service (with a shorter sermon after the prayer time). We invite all members to pray at this service, with (curated) prayer requests assigned during the service. We also encourage the congregation to give simple and concise prayers.
This sounds like a perfect way to help our children pray. Very simple. Very direct. Thank you.
I have been recently praying far more than I have before and we have begun monthly prayer meetings at our church. This will be helpful there, too.
I also found this example from
COLLECT PRAYER FORM
A collect (“call’ ect”) is a short thematic prayer that begins with an ascriptive address followed by an affirmation of God’s nature and a petition, with a standard ascription of praise at the end through or for the sake of Jesus Christ and God’s glory.
There are two basic forms:
- Simple, which consists of
a) an address
b) a petition
c) a conclusion
- Complete, which consists of
a) ascriptive address
b) the antecedent reason, a relative or participial clause referring to some
attribute or saving act of God which forms the basis for the petition,
c) the petition
d) the desired result or benefit from the granting of the petition,
e) the doxological conclusion.
A ludicrous example to help you remember:
Sweet God, (ascriptive address that serves as invocation)
giver of chocolate, (affirmation of who God is/what God does) Help us to taste and see that you are good (petition)
that we may trust and share the richness of your love for us (desired result) through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen (doxological conclusion naming Christ as
The thematic is God’s goodness as seen through the gift of chocolate (yes, ludicrous). In keeping with the theme, the adjectival ascriptive is “sweet,” the affirmation of who God is is “giver of chocolate.” The petition is related to the goodness and richness of taste. Standard “through Jesus Christ” ending.
Now a real prayer:
Almighty God, fountain of all wisdom:
Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn,
that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth,
they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We use the collect form in our church as well (not the same kind of church I grew up in.) I was hoping Fr. Mouser would be doing a writeup along those lines when I saw he was typing.