“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them,
“When you pray, say ….” Luke 11:1-2
When I want to express myself to God through prayer, I at times struggle to say what I feel. I become focused on the idea that my words are inadequate and feel guilty of babbling. This is far from reality because when we pray and struggle with our words, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Prayer is a worship practice we want to partake in and so, like Jesus’ disciples, we look for help.
A few years ago, I attended a Christmas Eve service where we read from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). I noted this book contained prayers written many years ago but the book does express my feelings and thoughts towards God. Since that service, I began to read and follow the morning and evening prayer cycle found in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). I have used it, as well as other sources, as prayer guides. I continue to pray as the spirit leads, however, praying another’s words can be both humbling and satisfying.
Why would we read someone else prayers to worship God?
We have no issues worshipping God by singing songs we did not compose and so why could we not pray words written by another. We can trust that the Holy Spirit inspired the song, prayer and scripture writers and so those words can hold meaning to us and God. I attended a prayer service where a sign language specialist was interpreting the spoken work for someone in the congregation. Although I couldn’t understand the meaning behind the gestures, I found myself staring. I noted that not only did the individual use hand gestures and body language to share what was being said, but her face was also full of expression making the words come alive. At one point, when a prayer was being read, I plugged my ears and just watched her face and body language. Incredibly I could recognize a range of emotions and could recognize the humanity behind the words being signed. She helped the hearing-impaired person fully understand the love and worship attached to the words by the way she was experiencing them through her interpretations.
I do not suggest or even advocate the idea that the only way you can pray is by using another’s words. The Book of Common Prayer is an aid to prayer just as are Psalms and scripture. I do want to share that we can consider praying using the words of our forefathers and mothers. Their prayers were spoken to God about needs, sorrows, struggles, lamentations, reverence, praise and worship, aspects of our prayer desires today.
Jesus offered His disciples words to consider using when praying. Saying another’s prayer can come across as empty. We have all attended services where people raced through prayers or scripture readings. They seem to have lost the love attached to these words and were just going through the motion of worship. No church is exempt from this type of worshipper and only the Holy Spirit can help them find a way to worship. Praying as we were taught in Sunday school is great. Praying spontaneously in response to the world around us is pleasing to God. Offering prayer for others is God’s gift to us. When we are in a relationship, we want to say the words to express our feelings. We need to find ways to connect with God and if that means offering prayers that were written by others, then maybe we could consider doing that to enhance our prayer practices.